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Topic: Isn't math fun?
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Isn't math fun?
Posted: Feb 5, 2000 3:12 PM
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From Le Monde (France), December 29, 1999, p. 21


By Catherine Vincent

Recent research on how people learn is behind a major new exhibition at the
Cité des Sciences, whose content represents a bold departure from a certain
number of orthodox ideas in the field. Entitled "Want to Learn", the
exhibition seeks to demonstrate that human beings have a desire to learn
which, if kept kindled, will ensure drudge-free learning. Learning as a
painful process is, by this way of thinking, learning gone wrong. The key
is to be found in identifying what type of learner an individual is since,
according to some findings, there are a variety of learning profiles.
Moreover, individuals tend to keep the same learning style lifelong.
Scientific advisors for the show point to research carried out on 3-4 year
olds confronted with an unknown object hidden in a bag; children clearly
demonstrated their curiosity by one of several types of reactions ranging
from timid to avid. When the subjects of this research are re-tested at age
12, virtually all of them prove still to be the same learning type as when

The exhibition is divided into four parts: "To each his own way of
learning"; "How do we learn?"; "Education and society, a little history",
and "Education in the digital age". The first two themes are demonstrated
in a series of games and interactions invoking memory, acquired and innate
knowledge, and other topics instead of a more discursive approach ... What
the exhibition imparts is a sense of the cognitive gains from the loss of
certainty and from breaking reasoning habits, the role of the emotions in
learning, and the need to take time, to be "dumb" for a moment to allow a
problem or concept to get inside.

Visitors can also perform their own neurological experiments by watching
NMRI results as they concentrate on different types of mental tasks. The
latter two parts of the show are more expository, tracing two millenia of
history of the representations of childhood and of learning and reflecting
on the pedagogical value of the computer. As CNRS epistemologist Françoise
Parot points out, the historical exhibit shows how the dominant world view
of an age dictates its vision for education. As for the computer age, the
show takes 7 learning modes - dialogue, experiment, creation, exploration,
self-evaluation, cooperation, play - and tries them out on computer, for
visitors to be able to draw their own conclusions.

Lecture seminars are available for groups wishing to learn more. Education
planners meanwhile, will likely be interested in any help they can get for
making math and science fun.


Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618) 453-4244
Phone: (618) 453-4241 (office)
(618) 457-8903 (home)


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