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Re: where's the math? so?
Posted:
Apr 20, 1995 1:45 PM


W. Gary Martin <gmartin@kimiyo.ed.Hawaii.Edu> writes:
>Ted Alper <alper@Ockham.Stanford.EDU> writes: >>Why is it important to teach that mathematics is a growing body of >>knowledge? I mean, it's certainly true, and it is better to >>be aware of the wide world than not  but how much attention should be >>paid to this in an 8th grade math class? <etc.> > >This is not just a "fact" to be conveyed to students. It is a mindset, a >way of looking at the study of mathematics. Mathematics is not something >dead people who lived years ago did. Mathematics is a continuing creative >enterprise of developing knowledge done by people who are LIVING. >Mathematicians do this for a living; we share in that enterprise as we make >sense of the mathematics we are studying, no matter what level that may be. >Too often students see mathematics as a body of knowledge to be assimilated >(a product). To me, seeing mathematics as an exciting and worthwhile >activity (a process) is at the very heart of the Standards.
Sure, teaching math is or ought to be about teaching a certain mindset to problems that go far beyond the template problems in the textbook. That is not the same thing as encorporating the study of "all [or even any] of the new mathematics done since world war II" into the K12 curriculum.
Developing the mindset might be done as well by studying Descarte's "Rules for the Direction of the Mind" (c. 1650) which applies as much to a beginning algebra "word problem" as it does to modern mathematical research. The approach is ancient; the mathematics (at least at the level of high school students) is also pretty old; the world around you, in which you apply the approach and the mathematics, is everchanging.
Ted Alper alper@epgy.stanford.edu



