Discussion:  Roundtable 
Topic:  Finding Time 
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Subject:  real math literacy 
Author:  Dennis 
Date:  Mar 21 2003 
connect for me with what Alice was saying earlier about teaching for long term
memory and Suzanne's comment about formalizing the mathematics.
I frequently encounter situations with adults who did well in math in high
school, but for whom it would never occur to actually use algebra or geometry in
a situation that called for it. They understand what I am talking about when I
apply it but wouldn't have thought to use it themselves.
The same thing happened with my nephew who was helping me build a tree house one
summer. This A student was flabbergasted when I suggested we save a little time
by using trig, even though he had just been studying it.
Would we consider someone literate who knew how to read but never did?
(Actually, I know a few people like that who almost never read, but that is
another problem.) Yet that is what passes for math literacy.
Our goal in math education should be to help students learn to think
mathematically and apply this way of thinking to real life and other courses
they take. As Chuck pointed out students who have acquired this style of
thinking can easily pick up esoteric content they may have missed.
I firmly believe that the way to develop this way of thinking is through
exploration, hypothesis testing, conjecture and proof with both hands on
manipulatives and interactive software with good worksheet and lesson plan
support. As Cathi stated this may take longer, but it will get us a lot closer
to our real goals.
 
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