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Topic: Re[2]: Calculator story
Replies: 16   Last Post: Feb 6, 1998 9:00 AM

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Pat Ballew

Posts: 356
Registered: 12/3/04
Re[2]: Calculator story
Posted: Jan 15, 1998 3:28 PM
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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
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
Tell 'em I told you so....
Pat Ballew
Misawa, Jp

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Calculator story
Author: Arun Gupta <> 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
ability', with the students' abilities dropping year after year?
all, these students would have been following a traditional syllabus,
they were pre-calculator at the time when they were learning
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.

-arun gupta

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