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Topic: Re: Dan's odyssey
Replies: 2   Last Post: May 5, 1997 2:40 PM

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CHAPMAN@APSICC.APS.EDU

Posts: 75
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Dan's odyssey
Posted: May 4, 1997 2:03 PM
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I'm reminded of a column I read recently in the Exxon Education Foundation
Newsletter. It was written by Bob Witte of the Foundation. He kindly gave
me permission to reprint his comments.

"Those of us who would like to make the ongoing debate into a war with
winners and losers do us another disservice, because I believe an ongoing,
informed discussion about what it means or should mean to learn
mathematics, and how we can know when that mathematics has been learned, is
essential for the continuing development of teaching for understanding.
Absent that kind of strong discussion that includes both pedagogy and
content, efforts to improve schooling for children often go astray.
Because we can have such a discussion about mathematics, teachers can have
confidence that inevitable errors in content, method, and strategy will
over time be corrected. The most productive force for this correction
comes most usefully from the active reflection of teachers an dother
mathematics educators in the contexts of real classrooms.
The critics of teaching for understanding or "math reform" seem to miss
this. I am struck by the apparent total absence, in most criticism, of any
mention of the nature of the teaching that is implicit in the traditional
mathematics instruction that is advocated. The unstated assumption, it
seems to me, is that teaching is "covering material" and, of course while
"making the kids behave--and do their homework." If this is done, some
critics appear to believe, the kids will "get it." If that is the sort of
teaching the grown-ups want in their schools, and if that is the sort of
teaching they are prepared to support teachers in accomplishing, then they
may well be better off with traditional teaching. Reformed teaching for
understanding is not for the ill-prepared or disinterested.
Does this mean that improved mathematics instruction should not be
attempted until it can somehow be "proven" to be some minimum percentage
"better" than traditional pedagody? No. No, because when teachers can
usefully ask and answer the questions about what the child does and does
not know about the mathematics, and when she or she has access to resources
and colleagues who can help choose what to do with that assessment
knowledge to advance the student's understanding, teaching becomes many
times more productive than is the case with traditional methods.
. . . It is tragic when teachers are diverted from that work by
politically motivated critics. At the same time, we must have throughtful
critics if we are to continue to improve mathematics instruction.
I hope we can continue the discussion of mathematics teaching and learning
without a "math war." And I would like to add to that discussion some talk
about what support and preparation teachers must have to bring the promise
of the Standards to life for the chldren in their classrooms."

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p.s. spelling or typo errors are mine alone!





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