Mark, This is an excellent analysis. The key is to ENGAGE THEIR CURIOUSITY in some way, to get them thinking about what is going to happen. This can be done with 'real life' or more likely pseudo-'real life' problems, but these need to be problems that they care about (i.e., forget most of the ridiculously contrived occupational questions). I have often found whimsical, silly problems to be effective. There is no pretense that the situation could ever happen, but still it is expressed in every-day terms. And let's not underestimate the effectiveness of a really compelling mathematical problem expressed purely in mathematical terms. To quote your summary, 'We must teach kids to think. That will never go out of style.' The strange thing is that, if given a chance, kids often LIKE to think! Gary
At 7:38 PM 02/29/96, Marksaul@aol.com wrote: <> >Well, I have not found that in 26 years of teaching. Sometimes it helps to >give an application, and sometimes it leaves them cold. > >The trouble is in defining "real life". Is Archie comics real life? > Seinfeld? Work in an office or factory? For me, real life is a good novel >or math puzzle and a sweet Florida orange. > >Too many people these days see this as "economic reality". But students >mostly do *not* see things this way. And there are many parts of math where >the applications are too difficult to show students. > >In high school, when students are asking why they are learning the subject, >the jig us up. They are adolescent, and are asking as a challenge, not to >get a serious answer. The job of the teacher is to try to prevent this >question from coming up. Sometimes one does it by asking it first oneself. > But sometimes it is done by intriguing the student on a completely different >level from that of "real life", whatever that may be. > >> I feel that this is one of the greatest needs/deficiencies of teachers at >>all levels--we do not know where/how the mathematics that we are teaching is >>used. Too many of us have been in school all of our lives and have very >>limited experience in using mathematics in the workplace. Our primary >>application of mathematics is that of an ordinary consumer. > >This is true. And consumer math has a well-deserved reputation for being >extremely lukewarm, so students spew it out. > >Applications of math are fascinating and can be very helpful in the >classroom. But I think math in the workplace is a limiting goal. > >See what I mean by economic reality? This is an historical phenomenon (i.e. >a fad). We in American are rightly concerned about the loss of our economic >hegemony over the world, and are obsessed with trying to do something about >it. And my feeling is that the kids suffer. > >Which of us knows what math will be in the workplace even five years from >now? And which will be on the dustheap, lying above slide rules and log >tables? No. We must teach kids to think. That will never go out of style.