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Topic: Step back and breathe
Replies: 2   Last Post: Jul 17, 1995 6:41 PM

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Posts: 16
Registered: 12/6/04
Step back and breathe
Posted: Jul 17, 1995 8:51 AM
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As a lurker (*) I'd like to suggest that some of the recent traffic on this
listserve is getting to be too fast and furious. (I came in Monday morning to
100 mail messages, of which I think at least half were from this list).

First, there's clearly a lot of barely subdued flaming, including what seem to
be bad word choices, snide comments, overly-defensive reactions, and so forth.
I wonder if this escalation mirrors that in the famous mathematical paper on
arms race escalation. (Sorry, no reference here, but I know it's in the World
of Mathematics.)

I think some of the discussion has gotten off "the topic," but that doesn't
concern me since it is interesting. As a parent, for example, I often wonder
about how much subject expertise a teacher needs. Less, I believe, in the
primary grades than in the secondary, but even so? Should a secondary teacher
have a major in education or in the subject -- math, history, whatever. Should
a high school teacher be teaching to develop what Andrei called mathematical
comprehension (or, as others call it, mathematical maturity), or is this
something that comes after a student has a firm footing in the subject, and
probably in sophomore year of college. I think it clear that a high-school
teacher should have both education and math skills, but:
Given a fair background in both, is there a minimum "effort" (measured in
training courses or whatever else) that a teacher should put into each?
Should a h.s. math teacher be capable of reading the Mathematical Intelligencer?
The Monthly? Is it sufficient to keep up by simply reading popular books, at
the level of the Martin Gardner classics ...

These and others that have been exposed in the current flurry of messages are
certainly important. Although I doubt there are any answers, let alone easy
ones, exposing the arguments has got to be important to those of you who teach
or teach teachers. I wonder if it wouldn't be appropriate for a few of you to
band together in small e-groups and develop position papers of some kind that
could then be published on this listserv (and possibly elsewhere!) I suspect
that all of us would benefit from the presentation of more extended arguments
than we see in the daily blow-by-blow.

Dennis Geller

(*) Former mathematician, working primarily in grapth theory and automata
theory, and not particularly inspired (because even when I asked, as a grad
student, I could never get anyone to pay any attention to [my] teaching skills!)
Now, my interest in this list is as a parent and proponent of some school
reforms, of which the standards and the IMP program seem to be avatars).

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