Video

Through the Education Lens

"An Amazing Time For Math In This Country"

CJW, November 9, 2010 6:55 PM

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"I teach high school math. I sell a product to a market
that doesn't want it but is forced by law to buy it."   --Dan Meyer

                                                            (photo above NOT Dan Meyer!)

By C.J. Westerberg

The TED video, "Math Class Needs A Make-Over" below is irresistible.  This is someone who we'll be hearing more from:  Dan Meyer, a high school math teacher from Santa Cruz, California with six years teaching under his belt, plus a part-time gig at Google.  He's young, in the trenches, teaching math to students who are mainly math- adverse, math-challenged, math-phobic, or what-have-you, and who apparently has no fear bringing up issues or even nuances that so many in education dance around.   Whether you agree or not, his perspective is refreshing and somehow liberating.  For example, when referring to a recent math conference, NCSM, Leadership in Math Education, Meyer makes this observation about the attendees (from Meyer's blog, dy/dan) : 

"Where are the new teacher-leaders?
One individual clocked the average age of an NCSM attendee at 57. Another, an edtech vendor, said that the biggest liability to his business was his own age. I received a lot of kind notes on my Ignite session but some of the praise was really hyperbolic, predictions about my place in math education that, based on five minutes in front of a projector screen, were flatly unreasonable, and indicative of a certain desperation to point to someone -- anyone -- on the other side of a yawning leadership gap."


Meyer addresses a few issues in this video, namely, the prevalence of our students' desire toward impatient problem solving, similar to the numbing television sitcoms which resolve "issues" in record time.  He also suggests that math teaching has lost the important "What information matters?" since learning math in this country has become more about "decoding a textbook" rather than the ability to problem solve without all the information given in a nice neat package prior to the problem.   In his words, math should serve the conversation; the conversation shouldn't serve the math (as it stands now in many math classrooms).

Does this sound familiar?  Meyer sees five "pre-installed viruses kids have" coming into the math classroom:

  1. Lack of Initiative
  2. Lack of Perseverance
  3. Lack of Retention
  4. Aversion To Word Problems
  5. Eagerness For Formula

He also has five recommended strategies for teaching math that may surprise:  we won't give them all away to spoil the fun but two are:  "Be Less Helpful" and "Let The Students Build The Problem".

And, finally, Meyer is not without his detractors.   In a recent post, "Involuntarily Conscripted Into The Math Wars," he takes on a recent criticism head-on, citing how "reductive" and "tedious" these edu-conversations get when a point becomes an either/or scenario  (teaching conceptual math vs. skill/drill math as an all-or-nothing polarization - so typical in edu-circles):

"It's like watching two sides argue whether it's better to feed children fruits or vegetables. Both sides approach the new and unfamiliar interested foremost in determining to which reductive party it belongs so they can get properly exercised.  This requires a healthy amount of unhealthy inference and I'm not inclined to engage any of it. (ie. "All we need are grocery line problems, apparently." Have mercy.)

Skill practice and conceptual development are both essential. I have no interest in any war between them, nor in anyone who suggests they're enemies. I will put this judgment on the record, though: I have only ever found one of them difficult.
. . "

Enjoy the show BELOW (11 painless minutes!) and let us know what you think --- (Click upper right hand corner of video to bring video full screen).

Orig. Posted by The Daily Riff May 14, 2010.
 








    

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