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Re: OT: Politics [Was:Social Contract]

On Tue, May 02, 2006 at 11:28:29AM -0400, Curt Howland wrote:
> Hash: SHA1
> On Tuesday 02 May 2006 02:09, "Roberto C. Sanchez" 
> <roberto@familiasanchez.net> was heard to say:
> > - Public schools become a ground for experimenting with social
> > policy (look at the "progressive" military personnel policies
> > during the Clinton administration)
> A perfect example: New Math! 
> Even if it weren't for any other fad of social engineering being 
> shoveled out in the "public school", New Math alone would be reason 
> for razing every "public school" to the ground so that no stone was 
> left standing upon another, and salt sown on the ruins.

When New Math was taken out of the hands of mathematicians in the 
sixties and handed to bureaucrats who codifed it into the way math 
should be taught from worn-out textbooks for the next forty years, it 
fails.  It becomes old math very quickly.  In fact the emphasis on 
set theory as a foundation for mathematics is nineteenth century math, 
not even 20th.

I've seen what happened to new math here in Quebec and I'm all for 
it.  They have just kept on renewing it, based on feedback from 
experience and mathematicians.

The parents are told not to try to help the children with their math 
homework.  They are warned that they will not understand it.

(actually, though, if the parent is a professional mathematician, he 
may be capable)

The program starts out with logic, with thinking, with precise reasing 
about precise concepts.  No, not formal logic.  The reasoning is 
intuituve.  The assignments are puzzles.  The means of solution are 
trial and error, intuition, whatever.  They are taught not to be 
disappointed if the first think they try doesn't work, but to try 
something else.  Very results-oriented.  But for each problem, it is 
crystal clear what constitutes a solution and what doesn't.

In the earliest grades, the puzzles often involve geometrical 
arrangements of brightly coloured objects in two or three dimensions.
It is fuin.  Extra time to use them is often provided as a reward for 
success in other, nonmathematical subjects.

Over the years, the puzzles become more abstract, numbers are 
introduced, and so forth.  The first contacts with addition and
multiplication are in the form of puzzles, of gradually increasing 
difficulty.  Concepts are presented in a variety of forms.  The 
children are challenged to figure out, say, addition of two-digit 
numbers before the are taught how.  It's just another puzzle.  They 
don't all come up with the same methods, but most of them figure it
out before they are taught an official procedure -- but, yes, a few
need to have it made explicit.

And the result is students who (mostly) understand the point of what 
they are doing.  As for doing it *well*, as for memorizing the 
ultiplication tables and such, well, my kids were shaky on that until 
the started to have to *use* their math skills for something that 
mattered to them.  Then performance suddenly shot up.

The purpose of education is no longer to learn all the facts you will 
need in your life, to learn how to find out facts when you need them.  
Of course, learning to learn requires practice, so the school is 
still involved with facts.  But the emphasis is no longer on 

-- hendrik

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