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Topic: Quotations from Andrei Toom
Replies: 9   Last Post: Mar 24, 2002 6:15 PM

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Domenico Rosa

Posts: 937
Registered: 12/6/04
Quotations from Andrei Toom
Posted: Mar 21, 2002 2:03 PM
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The following excerpts are from an article written by Andrei Toom
after teaching a Calculus II course for business majors. This article
came to my attention when it was discussed by Albert Shanker, the late
President of the American Federation of Teachers, in his weekly New
York Times column ("Pseudo-education," Week in Review section, Oct.
10, 1993).

In my opinion, Toom did an oustanding job at exposing the
pseudo-educated students being produced in the US, and he is to be
commended for speaking up in such a forthright manner. Toom was also
quite outspoken in exposing the fraudulent promotions and incompetence
of the NCTM leadership, whom he described as "impostors of education."
Unfortunately, when Toom wrote the article, he was not aware of how
our textbooks and teaching methods had degenerated during the previous
30 years.

It is clear to me that the situation has worsened since Toom wrote
this article. I am particularly appalled by the increasing number of
students whose high school math courses consisted of little more than
idiotic drills with graphing calculators. The continuing
pseudo-education of American students is a national disgrace, and it
is imortant that people speak up.

Dom Rosa

Andrei Toom, A Russian Teacher in America, Journal of Mathematical
Behavior, Vol. 12 (1993) pp.117-139.

An adapted version of Toom's article was reprinted in the Fall 1993
issue of The American Educator (beginning on page 9). A shorter
version appeared in the June and August 1996 issues of FOCUS, the
newsletter of the MAA.

"Never before had I seen so many young people in one place who were so
reluctant to meet challenges and to solve original problems. All they
wanted were high grades, and they wanted to get them with a conveyor
belt regularity." (p. 122)

"I had to learn that every technical calculation, which I was used to
ignoring, was a considerable obstacle for my students. It took a
considerable amount of time for me to understand how poor they were in
basic algebraic calculations." (p. 123)

"Of course, students are different. Many want to learn, because
curiosity is inherent in the human nature." (p. 125)

"They [students] are never carried away by the subject's charm for
its own sake, as they believe they must be 'practical', that is never
forget points and grades. As a result they never use the powerful
potential of creativity given to them by nature." (p. 126)

"Elementary mathematics is normally taught to children who looked like
children." (p. 127)

"The voluminous book … perfectly fits the max-min principle of the
market: maximal pretensions with minimal content." (p. 130)

"The moral status of those who designed the business calculus course
is like that of colonial-time hucksters who sold cheap beads, mirrors
and 'fire-water' to ignorants, whose role is now played by students. I
do not blame rank-and-file teachers, because they have no choice."
(p. 132)

"The students grabbed their calculators, but seemed not to know what
to calculate. After a while, one produced a complicated and wrong
answer. ... All they had learned was to follow a few recipes without
thinking." (p. 135)



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