Applies To Education, And Educational Technology, Also

Ed Begle:

Mathematics education is much more complicated than you expected, even though you expected it to be more complicated than you expected.

If anyone tries to tell you the problems of math education, educational technology, or capital-E education are simple, or that the solutions are simple, or that the people who don’t accept those solutions are simple-minded, kick the crash bar and don’t stop running. They’re wrong and none of this work would be very much fun if it were that simple anyway.

Featured Comment:

Peps Mccrea:

Ever heard of Veik’s law of commensurate complexity? He suggested that no model can simultaneously be both: simple, general, and accurate. It can be 2 of the 3, but not all 3. ‘Simple’ can be important, because complexity is difficult to manage. Particularly in a world where no one person can know enough to make an informed decision. It helps get things done. Just sometimes at the expense of the general and the accurate.

About 
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

8 Comments

  1. Hate to bring trite politics into the fray here, but belief that things are simple and avail themselves of simple solutions, and that those who refuse to see such truths are stupid or crazy or otherwise damaged is primarily the viewpoint of conservatives. Of course, not all conservatives are so-inclined and not all who are so-inclined are conservatives (to suggest otherwise would be too simple).

  2. Any time someone suggests that a solution is easy, my mind immediately responds “if it were easy, it would already be done.”

    The “simple” solutions I see the most lump together all students, teachers, or schools, without any realization of just how disparate the members of those groups are. The problems we still have tend to be ones that require digging deeper, and the solutions will need to be multifaceted and nuanced.

    Many people seem to act as though admitting that a problem is hard is a sign of weakness, when it’s more likely a sign of professionalism and intelligence.

  3. Also, I hope this isn’t too off topic, but this post totally reminded me of Hofstadter’s Law: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”

  4. Can we get out of the Industrial Revolution and Factory Model of Education and finally graduate to teaching to the specific needs of each student here in 21st century?

    Every student does not enter Kindergarten with the same preparation and skill set. Likewise, every student does not promote to the next grade level maintaining the same knowledge and skill set. So how can we expect that Process A will work for EVERY student?

    Even Dan’s WCYDWT types of problems or 3-Act Lesson Model isn’t a panacea, nor have I ever read/heard him claim as such. But Dan’s argument with these problems is that given the rules of the game that we have to work with, these problems help reach more students to develop an excitement and intuition about mathematics that the current Factory Model FAILS to achieve.

    @Eric – Common Core standards are not in themselves bad or useless. Instead, they seem to offer a better logical road map than my state’s current state standards. The problem of such standards will be to measure teacher performance (or school performance) based upon how their students measure up to them rather than measure the individual progress that student has made since being in said teachers classroom. But that is a whole other can of worms.

  5. Ever heard of Veik’s law of commensurate complexity? He suggested that no model can simultaneously be both: simple, general, and accurate. It can be 2 of the 3, but not all 3.

    ‘Simple’ can be important, because complexity is difficult to manage. Particularly in a world where no one person can know enough to make an informed decision. It helps get things done. Just sometimes at the expense of the general and the accurate.

  6. That link to Ed Begle brought back fond memories of the SMSG books, but one listing made me go “eeeep eeeep”. I saw something that I was almost certainly a guinea pig (study subject) for. There is a box in Austin I need to see!