Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Math Education

I could have sworn I'd written about primary and secondary math education before, but I can only find this post about the Algebra II requirement (Repeat After Me: Correlation Is Not Causation), which is pretty cursory. Oh, well.

Marilyn vos Savant said it for me in this Sunday's Parade magazine.

...because reading is much more important for everyone, we focus on it from the beginning and limit our kids’ earliest math exposure to counting, with maybe a little addition and subtraction.

So we start late with math, and then we move too fast and, eventually, too far. In grade school, kids often learn operations instead of concepts. In high school, reading skills need mostly content amplification and comprehension work, but math gets harder and harder. With this pressure, it isn’t surprising that young people develop math anxieties. By college, many of them choose curricula based on how much math is involved.

Some students are surely drowning in math that they’ll never even come close to using, much less needing, in their chosen professions or in life. Math doesn’t enlighten us the way literature, social studies, or art appreciation do. Instead, it’s an extremely valuable tool that many of us simply don’t need to use much. So I suggest that we start math education earlier in life and stop sooner except for the professional areas in which it is obviously required, such as engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences.... Students who detest math are never going to consider one of those careers anyway, and they could put that time to better use in other courses.
The areas of math I would cover by or in high school would be algebra and geometry that are applied to real-world situations; finances and budgeting; statistics and probability; and introduction to computer programming. Making sure students have a thorough grounding in these topics is most likely to serve them in their lives, jobs, and roles as citizens. I'm not opposed to having more advanced courses available, but requiring them of everyone is unnecessary.

Here's a handful of articles and videos I've had bookmarked for a long time on the subject of math education:

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