Rex and Arun, I once heard a doctor begin a speech with the strange comment, "I have Great News. More and more people are dying of cancer every year." He then went on to explain that this was goodnews because cancer was an "old-age" death in general, and the increase in the number of deaths by cancer was a symptom that we were NOT being killed by something else. So what has that got to do with the question?? Well, I think one of the signs of our success in Mathematics and Science Education, is the number of weak kids who stay in longer than they once did. This means in Alg II the number of kids who "don't remember" the distance formula is greater than it was, and the whole process seems a little slower, and harder on the teacher. The same effect has happened at the college level I assume. We have been so successful at selling the "Math and Science is important" message, that kids stay longer, and yes, the average level of the class may be slipping a little. I don't believe this is the only reason, but I do think it is part of the "problem". In trying to keep more kids in math, we may have lowered our sights on one end a little. With greater pressure for more kids to go to college we may have "relaxed" our grading a little. In using calculators to help weaker kids see more difficult ideas of mathematics we may have facilitated their developing weaknesses in calculation, and the general de-emphasis of memorization and rote learning may have decreased the average ability to do synthetic manipulations. So what is the solution???? depends on what you want to achieve... if you want Higher skills in Calculus, weed out more in Alg I and Alg II and Pre-calc... but if you want more kids to Stay in math and science, and you want ALL of them to have a meaningful education, then we still have some bugs to work out about how we sustain weak students growth and still challenge strong students adequately. That will always be a judgement call for every teacher and will change from year to year. There isn't an easy answer, but BETTER is is not achieved with easy answers. Tell 'em I told you so.... Pat Ballew Misawa, Jp
______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________ Subject: Re: Calculator story Author: Arun Gupta <email@example.com> at EDU-INTERNET Date: 1/14/98 11:28 PM
Rex Boggs asks :
Arun, what was the reason they gave for this preceived drop in 'academic ability', with the students' abilities dropping year after year? After all, these students would have been following a traditional syllabus, as they were pre-calculator at the time when they were learning arithmetic, likewise they were pre-Standards. And even if they weren't entirely pre-calculator, I would have imagined that the 'pick of cream of the high-school crop' would have kno n their tables and been able to multiply and divide multi-digit numbers.
*** No reasons given, they merely noted the symptom -- falling academic standards. Physicists tend to be cautious in attributing causes.