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Topic: Re: fwd: re: re: lecturing and ...
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Jack Rotman

Posts: 22
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: fwd: re: re: lecturing and ...
Posted: Jul 3, 1995 9:00 AM
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The list has been very active lately, with this discussion of lectures' and
the Standards. Dan H, in a recent post, put a different twist on the
discussion by challenging us to think about accountability as a motivator --
especially standardized tests for the students.

I am "just" a community college mathematics teacher, and don't have the
credentials that many of you have, for commenting on K-12 mathematics
education. (Interpretation: I don't work in the K-12 classroom everyday.)
I do have a few comments though.

First, we are trying to teach mathematics in a culture that has a schizophrenic
relationship with mathematics: "I've never been any good in math, but everybody
needs lots of it." Such a love-hate relationship is unique; can you imagine
the same paradox with writing?

This cultural background is well-imbedded, and resistant to change. In fact,
our culture clings to some unique values that are not found in most others.
Among these is the belief that judgement and accountability from above is a
"bad" or "dangerous" thing. Our legal system, to some extent, codifies this
belief. Generally, I don't think we are questioning this belief; however,
we find ourselves uncomfortable with some of its implications. One
specific implication is that we are very unlikely to have a uniform
(standardized) test with substantial consequences for all students.

Others on the list have been talking about the assumptions about what
"today's young people" are like. Most of these are myths. However, there
is a culture-wide change for all of us. This change says: "Fast and soon
is better than slow and later." Whatever our age, our cultural feedback
says rewards must be now', and work (effort) should be entertaining.
Education is, in some ways, trying to adapt to this nintendo culture'.
(Don't get me wrong; I enjoy a good game ... a good thrill, as much as
the next person.)

Next, look at the other motivations to learn. At your level, how many
students come in saying "I am excited just to be here, and I can't wait
to learn"? I suspect there is an inverse correlation between the number
of such students and the grade level. Even in excellent schools,
children have difficulty maintaining a positive attitude about learning
in the face of the social environment.

Last, look at the factors we are trying to vary in the classroom. We weigh
the advantages of "lecture" and "group" (cooperative or otherwise) work.
We discuss the appropriate uses of technology. We insert more critical
thinking or writing. Dan H. said "It's like ... debating the efficacy
of a new carburetor on a Lola with flat tires." I am excited about
the process of looking at these issues, but constantly feel a need to
look at the other constraints that effect my work.

I seldom have complaints about my fellow mathematics educators. However, I
do think we tend to avoid the cultural aspects of our work. For any
meaningful change to take place, there must be a better match between
the culture and what we are trying to accomplish. Some of the material
in the "Standards" are steps in this direction. However, I would argue
that the more powerful changes need a different focus. If we, as
mathematics educators, have identified a body of knowledge that is
important for people in today's world (and I think we have a
sufficiently accurate picture of this), then the culture needs to be
convinced that learning that knowledge is worthwhile and feasible.
We can accept no excuses of "Mathematics has always been hard for me."

I hope my long-winded comments are of some help to someone. (It helped
me clarify my thoughts.)
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< from >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Jack Rotman phone (517)483-1079
Math Professor
Lansing Community College Lansing, MI
"Like all art & science, mathematics surrounds us."
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