Education Opinion

Mathematics: The Language of Life?

By LeaderTalk Contributor — September 05, 2009 2 min read

As I thought about what I might write this month, I considered giving a shout out to some people I have been learning from lately; namely, Clay Shirky, Seth Godin, Chris Anderson, and Garr Reynolds. I also thought about re-posting here an innovation3 blog post I recently wrote on John Seely Brown that was interesting for the process and the product. Then I visited the A Difference blog of Darren Kuropatwa, a Winnipeg, Manitoba teacher who really knows how to challenge his students to think deeply about the mathematics they are learning. There I read his June 30, 2009 post, The Formula for Changing Math Education, and having suffered through the “math wars” during the last part of the 20th Century, I decided I would write this LeaderTalk post as a follow up to Darren’s. The seven steps (follow them in order or pick the one you like and start there) I outline below will help carry your thinking on math education to a new level of understanding.

Step 1: Each of us has preconceptions we bring to the topic of mathematics. You have to surface your preconceptions before you can engage your mind with the topic and challenge your way of thinking. So here goes. Step 1 is for you to answer these preconception questions before moving ahead.

* How might you conceive of mathematics as the language of life?
* Assuming for a moment that it is the language of life, what are some educational reasons for acknowledging its presence in all subjects and all classes in school?
* Why might statistics and probability be a better long-term goal for the majority of students rather than calculus?
* When you get right down to it, what role should technology have in how we teach mathematics?
* What examples of successful models of teaching mathematics with Web 2.0 technology can you discuss?

Step 2: Watch this “activator” video to get you thinking about the topic.

Step 3: Contribute your thoughts to the discussion that followed in the comments on Darren’s blog after the video. Add your comments there or here.

Step 4:
Here is another blog post for you to read from a different author, Dr. Jeff Goldstein, Center Director, National Center for Earth and Space Science, to help you consider the place of mathematics in our curriculum.

The first part of “Weekly Challenge 3: What Can You Do With a Humongous Piece of Xerox Paper?”

Step 5:
The meat and potatoes is to study Darren’s three class blogs.

Darren’s Class Blogs

* AP Calculus AB: Without Bound ('08-'09)
* Applied Math 40S (Winter ’09)
* Pre-Cal 40S (Winter ’09)

A. What did Darren ask the students of his three classes to do on their blogs to learn?

B and C are optional, but worth the effort...

B. Have other teachers or your students analyze the learning that is evident in the class blogs.
C. Better yet, have the students use the student posts to learn mathematics and post their learning to your own class blog.

Step 6: Please take time to reflect by writing in the comment section below what you have learned.

* Answer the preconception questions now. How has your thinking changed or not changed?
* Are there other important questions?
* What are your answers?

Step 7: Now, how will you apply what you learned? This is your opportunity to present (use any media vehicle) your “formula for changing math education.” Add it as a comment below or link us to your creation.

Thanks for participating.

Dennis Richards
Retired, but still a Learning, Creating, Teaching
dennisar at gmail dot com

I will probably cross post this on innovation3.edublogs.org.

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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