Posted by Rojas @ 2:14 pm on August 26th 2009

The loud bigotry of no expectations

Every now and then, when I’ve had a particularly ineffective day in the classroom and I begin to doubt my aptitude as a teacher, it’s comforting to read stuff like this:

Arguing that math needs to be more “democratic,” he contends that “social responsibility” demands a “total rethink” of British math instruction. He claims students are discouraged by the reality that solutions are either “right or wrong” and proposes that math answers “allow for shades of opinion.”

Read the whole document. Brief summary: America Doomed.


  1. I’m no mathematician, so I guess I couldn’t say without hesitation that *no* areas of math use ambiguous solutions. But I doubt that elementary and high school math would benefit from instruction in which your wrong answer is regarded as an “alternative viewpoint”.
    Good grief.

    Comment by Talarohk — 8/26/2009 @ 3:04 pm

  2. Meh, I can give a gracious reading of that and understand how a teacher who facilitated the act of solving problems rather than putting all credit into the answers themselves—the teacher for whom the “show your work” was the important bit—might serve the same ends just fine, presuming, of course, that they still taught the right answers.

    In particular the contrast he’s talking about with the British style, at least as colloquially used by American teachers, is intended as a contrast with teaching math by rote memorization. Developmental psychologists would call that the difference between crystalline and fluid intelligence. The balance between the two varies by field, as well it probably should, though traditionally the mix tends to be beginning with the crystalline (knowledge) and then adding later the fluid (critical thinking). But it’s certainly not crazy in American educational thought to argue that we ought to push up the fluid. Though personally I do tend to favor a standardized base of crystalline knowledge in every field.

    Comment by Brad — 8/26/2009 @ 5:18 pm

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