# Week 6: 4

The Devlin rant: http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_06_10.html

I posted a response on the blog: http://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/math-isnt-memory-work/

Here’s what I posted:

I feel like you, if math didn’t involve creative thinking, I wouldn’t be doing it. I couldn’t teach in a program that revolved around students memorizing rules. I wonder about some of the other points Devlin makes though. He says,

“Of course, teaching math in the progressive way requires teachers with more mathematical knowledge than does the traditional approach (where a teacher with a weaker background can simply follow the textbook – which incidentally is why American math textbooks are so thick). It is also much more demanding to teach that way, which makes it a job that deserves a far higher status and better pay-scale than are presently the case. And it’s a lot harder to collect the data to measure the effectiveness of the education, since it means looking at the actual products of the process: real, live people.”

He’s making a whole bunch of claims here. He seems to be saying that the typical math teacher is simply not capable, ability-wise, to teach using an approach that requires independent thinking. This should be a controversial point, and is not necessarily the case.

He also makes another point I agree with: there’s a mistaken reliance (in America, at least) on quick and easy quantitative tests as assessment tools.

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The systemic problem may not be in capability, but teacher’s past experiences. To do what Kevin wants, people need to frequently engage in problem-solving, conjecturing, construction, original proofs, and other “daily grind” of math. These activities aren’t happening in math courses, including teacher prep courses, and in-service as well. How can teachers become experienced problem-solvers, for example, to model it for their students? Peter Appelbaum at Arcadia invites prospective teachers to participate in math circles when they take his course. This is an example of how it can be done – a rare example, at that.