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I gave the opening talk at NCTM's High School Institute yesterday in Orlando, FL. At the end, a man introduced himself as a teacher and former textbook editor and set me straight on a couple of things:

  1. Publishers decompose rich mathematical tasks into mealy, mushy little bits because teachers want them to. Teachers review those books and point to problems and say, "That's too hard. That one too. My students can't do that one. Break that down for me."
  2. Same with the overly helpful pointers to previously worked examples. "You want me to assign this for homework? Only if you make a note in the margin pointing to the example problem it's exactly like."
  3. Same with the cornball visuals. "Too much text. Can you throw in some color?"

Publishers respond to market pressure from teachers who are responding to a similar kind of market pressure from students. I have arrived at very different responses to the same pressure. (ie. Does anyone really think students are engaged by the cartoony nonsense they find in the margins of their books?) Making myself the best advocate I can be for those responses is, of course, the challenge.

BTW: Lisa Henry posted a detailed review of my keynote. I want to highlight her remark about the #anyqs project:

I am finding more and more math around me. It pokes in my head when I least expect it.

I heard this in Grand Forks, also. The #anyqs exercise seems to be genuinely transformative for at least some teachers. Whether that transformation results in any kind of significant change in student achievement or in the disposition of their classes is an open question.

31 Responses to “It Isn’t (All) The Publishers’ Fault”

  1. on 29 Jul 2011 at 6:20 pmDeacon

    Do text book folk get all defensive because they feel threatened that their dated and unchanged medium is becoming more obsolete? I had to teach 5th grade Everyday Math (I know, I throw up when I think of that too) for 8 years. They have no textbook, or real meaningful anything. I longed for a text that would guide me and provide me with limitless problem sets and an online component. Then I was positioned into grades 7 and 8 which uses Holt. They have all those things, but I still am not satisfied with it. An online book is still a book. Same memorization of procedure with some shitty clip art.
    What would it take to create a curriculum with media? We were looking at creating ePubs and getting them into iBooks. That was some pretty amazing stuff that could be done right there with text, photos, and movies. Why don’t these companies go this route? It would save them money and would create much more meaning for those using it.

  2. on 29 Jul 2011 at 8:47 pmJoshua Schmidt

    Where are these teachers coming from are requesting these textbooks? I feel like justifying that is like me saying, “My students are requesting easier Math, that’s why my problems are so simple.”

    Secondly, is there an economic issue of supply and demand happening here? If we continue to demand better textbooks, do we simply just believe that they are going to improve? How long would that process take?

  3. on 30 Jul 2011 at 2:15 amJan van Hulzen

    I think that its the responsibility of the teacher to place the math into context if desired. As a teacher involved engineering i am always looking for a balance between simplification to prove a point and elaboration of details to show context. I think a textbook should not try to do the same but give an overview of the math involved in a concise but correct way without clutter. To use a textbook like a solidified classroom lecture is (in my view) not the way forward. Students who ask for this are more interested in worked examples that they intend to study for the exam.

    On a side note in engineering disciplines like mechanical engineering, books form the 1920-1970 are much better than books from 2000 onwards for precisely that reason.

  4. on 30 Jul 2011 at 5:28 amJon long

    Why oh why do we continue to look at textbooks as a resource??? Why are textbook companies making fully interactive webtools to replace the antiquated idea of a stagnant book??? Our textbooks look like a rainbow went through a blender and then out onto the page. Tidbits splattered here and there. Ugggggg!

  5. on 30 Jul 2011 at 8:01 amSteve Leinwand

    On the basis of nearly 25 years as math change agent and textbook author at all levels, the sad truth is that the editor is correct. It’s simpy amazing how much time and research every publisher devotes to sensing the market – particularly given that they are about to invest upwards of $20 million in a new product and have to convince the non-math higher-ups that they are responding to “the market”. So we are the enemy. Sit with me behind one-way glass mirrors as prototype lessons get analyzed in focus groups. Sit with me as adoption committees review three different programs. “There’s not enough practice.” “That’s too difficult” (usually meaning for me and therefore the kids). “That’s just not how we do it” (meaning that’s not how I was taught and how I’ve taught it for the past 20 years). So long as publishing is market driven and so long as adoptions are democratic processes (both positives in my way of thinking), until and unless we produce a more informed and discriminating consumer, you just can’t blame the textbook companies for what they do. In fact, looking at current textbooks, warts and all, including those that have my name on them, gives us all the clearest vision of exactly what the mainstream demands and why moving toward sense-making, reasoning and realistic problem-solving is such an uphill battle.

  6. on 30 Jul 2011 at 8:45 amMichael Kuehn

    If only my kids weren’t expected to regurgitate their knowledge on the same type of “mealy, mushy” questions on our state standardized testing. Oh wait, our state tests are written by a textbook publisher!

  7. on 30 Jul 2011 at 10:13 amblaw0013

    Steve L. is sadly correct. But additionally, publishers do share some blame in that internally, by the hands of the various editors (adding an Index, glossary, picture/diagram), the potentially rich work of the author can be sucked back to the norm–the helpful text, designed to make the work of the student (and teacher) as easy–i.e. thoughtless–as possible.
    This conversation begs the question, what should the HS math textbook of tomorrow (today) look like? Should it be a “how to (think, calculate, solve, compute)” manual? Should it be a thoughtful, connected, growing sequence of rich, provocative problems? Should it be a collection of exercises? Else?
    I ask with a true interest as a contributor to a current HS text, and more specifically as a designer of the teacher professional learning curriculum that goes with the text.

  8. on 30 Jul 2011 at 12:20 pmRobert Hansen

    This occured because many teachers now find it their role not to teach mathematics but to teach kids not to hate it. Pictures and gimmicks are the standard fare. You don’t see this in the older traditional books which are now used for the honors classes because they were written when the role of a mathematics teacher was to teach mathematics. It wasn’t even a thought that a mathematics teacher would be teaching subjects like algebra (or calculus) to students that didn’t even like math. It was presumed that the students that signed up for the class had a bonafide interest in the subject.

    If ever it is decided that learning to play the piano is something that all must do regardless of interest or ability, I am certain the same pattern would repeat itself. In the beginning the teachers would naturally turn to existing and conventional material for teaching piano that presumes interest and note sense. Then they will find quickly that most of their students hate the piano. The focus will evolve from teaching piano to teaching not to hate piano. Obviously, scales and arpeggios would be the first to go, along with boring practice. Whatever is left will have to fit in the space of a class period on a projector. And none of it will ever presume note sense.

    The only way in such an environment that a kid would actually learn to play the piano is if their parents added all that was removed back in. Or find an authentic honors piano class that can focus on teaching piano rather than not hating piano. The latter can be very difficult for parents depending on where they live and the former is only possible if the parents have the skills and time.

  9. on 30 Jul 2011 at 12:27 pmluke hodge

    The Singapore math textbooks offer a much less cluttered, but more demanding approach – both computationally and conceptually. The visuals are about as cornball as you can get, but they assist in the understanding of the math as opposed to being the distractions you often see in US books.

    I spoke with an assistant superindentent from a district that previously used Singapore math. He said it requires a lot of training and is a ton of work for the teachers. He also said that after a few years, you run into the “problem” of having a lot more kids ready for algebra in 7th or 8th grade and not enough teachers qualified to teach them.

    Any one have any experience using these books?

  10. on 30 Jul 2011 at 1:30 pmDan Meyer
    @Robert: This occured because many teachers now find it their role not to teach mathematics but to teach kids not to hate it.

    False dichotomy right there, innit? Even going with that premise, is the unstated prescription that math should be elective?

  11. on 30 Jul 2011 at 4:08 pmRobert Hansen

    @Robert: This occured because many teachers now find it their role not to teach mathematics but to teach kids not to hate it.

    False dichotomy right there, innit? Even going with that premise, is the unstated prescription that math should be elective?

    ———————-

    In the end, anything accomplished is elective, right? I mean, you are not a fireman and I am not a lawyer, probably for the same reason, it wasn’t our choice. But to your question “Should math be an elective?” I didn’t actually say “math”, I said algebra and calculus. I don’t think arithmetic and pre-algebra should be an elective anymore than I think reading should be an elective. But even there we are not successful and gimmickry shows up. But my point wasn’t if algebra should be an elective or not, that would be another discussion. My point is that when you force students past their inherent interest, understanding and command of the subject and unless you change the subject, they will hate it and you will hate it. Thus the gimmickry, with the hope that the students (and you) don’t hate that 50 minutes.

    So this isn’t about whether courses should be electives or not, it is about whether students are ready or not. I was pointing out that when courses are electives then students generally don’t take courses they are not ready for (it is uber not fun). They can be too cautious and in need of some prodding, but this textbook discussion is not that at all.

  12. on 30 Jul 2011 at 4:19 pmNev

    I can’t profess to have tremendous knowledge of the text book market – but I have written some titles for young children and another for their parents through Ashton Scholastic (here in Australia) and one title for a different publisher in the USA. None of these could be called “text books” but they were concerned with teaching mathematics to young students. I found the editors here responsive to ideas, whereas the small title for the US market had very strict parameters and needed revisions “to fit the American view” rather than improve the text.
    I think the problem of the text book is that they offer a safety net for teachers. This comes into play in an era where teachers are seemingly under a barrage of criticism regardless of what they do. Teachers can say “I am teaching the approved text – don’t blame me.” The other point is… and this might be more challenging … the standard of mathematics understanding of many teachers is lower than might be generally assumed – and you can’t teach what you don’t know. So, again, the text book becomes the shield behind which teachers can hide.
    I suspect the editor is right – the publishers respond to the market. If we want the texts to change we must change the market place (meaning the classrooms). And one way to do this is through blogs and discussions like this one.
    Cheers
    Neville (http://www.nbnotewell.blogspot.com)

  13. on 30 Jul 2011 at 4:20 pmSteve Phelps

    @Dan,

    “Same with the cornball visuals. ”

    Well, obviously, the cornball visual is there to remind kids “Hey! Don’t you wish school was out and you were here in this pool instead of sitting through this?”

  14. on 31 Jul 2011 at 8:08 amDean Schonfeld

    If the publisher is correct – as some of the readers indicate – then it is not the kids fault, it is ours. As much as I hate to say it, these jokers who are all for evaluating teachers might be right – we need better math teachers.

    I am familiar with both the Singapore texts and the European texts. Briefly, they are 85% exercises and 15% explanations (by page space).

    Perhaps the publishers should try to put out accompanying exercise books. They would not be “the textbook” for the course, but an optional text. No illustrations (not too many anyhow), no history of math, no pictures with people who use specific math techniques – just exercises of various degrees of difficulty. It should not cost that much to produce such a book.

    Dean Schonfeld
    confidentlylimited.wordpress.com

  15. on 31 Jul 2011 at 8:52 amblaw0013

    Two additional small ways in which the textbook publishers ARE complicit in the terrible product they publish:
    (1) They seem to be unable to ask teachers (who I would not dismiss as poor informants, or misguided) the propoer questions as they collect feedback about the texts, via survey, in depth commentary, or focus groups; and
    (2) They lack the cajones to publish something bold. i.e. They will only (?) follow the highest probability for income. I could say this better, i.e. in their language, if I had a business mind. But I don’t, I am a teacher. I am concerned about my fellow people/learners/teachers/students–not the “bottom line.”

  16. on 31 Jul 2011 at 10:01 amMark B

    Who’s to blame is about as interesting a question here as it is with the debt crisis — which is to say, very interesting, but ultimately it’s all useless whining.

    There’s a whole ecosystem of factors at play, the majority of which point toward a mushy, mealy mess. As teachers, the rope we can actually pull on is the one in the classroom — create something better with your own students, share it with the rest of us, and then find ways to demonstrate that it is better. Everything else is rope pushing.

  17. on 31 Jul 2011 at 12:41 pmScott A.

    I was in the audience for Dan’s keynote at this NCTM institute and really hope that the math ed world (publishers, professors, teachers, parents, school boards) would listen to Dan’s message and make the necessary changes so that our students become sense makers and reasoners! Who needs a population of students (read future decision makers, employers, leaders, politicians) who can only robotically follow instructions? Yet, that is what we (in math ed) continue to create.

    Dan, keep spreading your message!

  18. on 31 Jul 2011 at 4:59 pmTelannia Norfar

    My first year of teaching I did not even have a textbook for one of my courses and only could make 100 copies a month without permission. After a 100 copies, it had to be approved. I also only had an overhead projector and a whiteboard that did not wipe off writing easily. That year taught me that teaching/curriculum is not a about a textbook or having unlimited materials. I understood why many African-Americans were successful in school prior to desegregation. As I discovered that year from teachers who also did not have materials, learning is about what you know you want your students to know and helping them get there even if you have to create the materials. I agree with much of the responses this far. However, I think we are missing the deeper issue. Its no ones job to create the “right” materials to engage our students but the teacher. I am ultimately the responsible person and therefore I don’t care if a textbook, online interaction or a great video question is available in a nice package for me to do. I am the one who is the most valuable resource for my students. If we don’t realize that then we can be replaced by these materials we so desperately want improved. If you disagree, please disagree lovingly :).

  19. on 01 Aug 2011 at 3:43 pmSarah R.

    Telannia, I agree with you. I believe there is a profound shortage of quality math teachers in this country. Evidence? Look how many textbooks are designed so that a teacher can conduct a lesson without really knowing what they are teaching. Sad, but I do believe this is true. In fact I scour the Internet and other sources for ways to enhance my math classes because I know I can’t rely on the major publishers for that kind of assistance. TGFTI!!! Thanks, Al Gore. (Had to put that in…)

    It’s tiring to do all that extra searching, but that’s part of the life-long learner bit.

  20. on 02 Aug 2011 at 6:09 amJason Dyer

    This goes back a little to what I brought up with the stack of pennies — this blog audience is comfortable enough to handle tackling the problem with no guidelines, but an average teacher would not be.

    This isn’t even just a newbie-learning-curve thing; with some of the stuff you’ve thrown out I’m at a loss for actual implementation. Dangling the hook is clear enough, but a group of grizzled open-ended-puzzle-solving students (even with a well-established group system and other techniques like hint tokens) will still sometimes have blank-page syndrome when it comes to actually working the thing. What hints would be most helpful? What understandings do they need? What generalized techniques apply here (so they can recognize they are using a technique that will occur elsewhere)? Does everything need to be done in-class or is there a portion that would work as homework? Can it be used to learn a particular mathematical technique for the first time or does it need to be implemented after they are already experienced with whatever math is needed?

  21. on 02 Aug 2011 at 12:03 pmBowen Kerins

    You’ve inspired me to write something longer, but it’s not ready yet — I am already late for this commenting party, but here goes:

    1 (mealy-mushy): This does happen, but not from all teachers. Our inclination in writing CME Project was to include leading questions in the teacher’s edition. I think students can handle much more difficult problems than “expected”, as long as they have the inclination to try… that is the tough part. Keeping expectations high is tough, too, but has to be done.

    2 (helpful pointers): Again, this is something a good teachers’ edition should do, but the student edition should NOT do. Students should be the ones to recognize when previous work will be helpful. Maybe it’s okay to reduce the cognitive load early in the year, especially if students don’t recognize they can use something they did last Tuesday in today’s work! But those scaffolds need to be removed quickly. We have fought with a few teachers on this piece, and our publisher (Pearson) stood by our philosophy — in general these sorts of “look backs” are not found in our books. They do not help students learn real mathematical thinking.

    3 (visuals): Visuals sell books, but not in the way you might expect. They are not for the students, they are not for the teachers, they are for the selection committees. A black-and-white math book somehow doesn’t “feel” like a math book and gets rejected before anyone looks at the math. This is a sad reality, and I don’t see it changing.

    I’m glad we have a publisher who helps us get through the door, because as good as our math is, we’d never make it as a self-published text because our visuals wouldn’t be up to par. Pearson gave us (the math writers) final approval over any artwork or caption, and we rejected a few particularly awful pieces of clip art. Pearson made custom artwork (admittedly cornball) in service of the mathematics, such as a dude holding up an X on the high end of a seesaw against a girl holding up an X+1. Not all the artwork is that useful, but it’s not a complete throwaway.

    Still it has to be there. Publishers know sales — and apparently a snowboarder on our Algebra 1 cover increases sales. But they listened when we forced that cover not to include “y = mx + b”.

    I apologize for sounding like a pitchman for our books, but I take offense to comments like Deacon’s that say textbooks all have the “same memorization of procedure” or Robert’s comment that “pictures and gimmicks are the standard fare”. Our books aren’t like that at all, with mathematical habits of mind at the core and the goal for all students to learn real mathematics.

    Thanks and best wishes to all teachers.

  22. on 02 Aug 2011 at 12:07 pmDan Meyer
    Jason: What hints would be most helpful? What understandings do they need? What generalized techniques apply here (so they can recognize they are using a technique that will occur elsewhere)? Does everything need to be done in-class or is there a portion that would work as homework? Can it be used to learn a particular mathematical technique for the first time or does it need to be implemented after they are already experienced with whatever math is needed?

    Yeah, really good questions. I think Mr. Mathalicious has also thumped me a few times for being too unhelpful. My sense of math curriculum right now is that it’s overly helpful, too mealy, and too structured. I know I can throw in the towel at any point and develop worksheets and teacher guides and add in lots of supporting questions. Some of those are probably even advisable. I’m just being cautious, I guess. In my pursuit of the least powerful framework for this kind of curriculum, I’m adding power very, very slowly.

    If you get a sec, I’d be interested in your sense of these two lessons. One of them is for Still Undisclosed Project X and the other is stripped down to the chassis. Are the additions too helpful? Not helpful enough?

    Print Job
    Print Job + Help

  23. on 02 Aug 2011 at 1:46 pmJason Dyer

    I guess you’re meaning the add of

    6. What is the rate of the printer in seconds per page?
    7. What is the rate of the printer in pages per second?
    8. What is the rate of the printer in pages per minute?
    9. Which of those measurements of rate is more useful to you?

    Which I’m not wild about (especially #9) because it gives the notion there is One Right Way of doing the problem. I guess most students would reach for 7 or 8; I’d use 6 because I mentally have the units cancelling (88 pages * X seconds / 1 page causes the unit of pages to cancel) Usually with this sort of problem I have some students use seconds and some students use minutes and everything goes fine.

    I would either rephrase #9 to make it clear this is a preference of the student, or rewrite that portion entirely to be a more general hint (ex: “Hint: Relate the number of pages to the time by a ratio.” — how this would read exactly depends on the grade level you’re aiming at here.)

    A more open ended hint would also allow more strategies. There’s no shame in the students starting with a raw table before jumping to rates; they could solve the problem without thinking of rates at all except implicitly (something the teacher could then leverage; that’s the sort of thing you’d want in the teacher guide). Also from my experience of students watching videos with timers there’s a bit of disagreement as to when the cues happen. A table would make clearer this is an inverse problem with no absolute “right” answer given the information the students have.

    (Some problems are inverse problems through-and-through — is something mystical going on in the Bermuda Triangle? — and some are problems you can make inverse problems by withholding information — is Mark Twain is the author of this text? The printer problem is the latter.)

  24. on 02 Aug 2011 at 5:29 pmluke hodge

    I think the extra questions ruin the paper copy task if they are given to the students before they have a chance to try and figure it out.

    Are you trying not to be “too helpful” by giving the students three rates to think about and letting the students decide which rates to use. I feel like asking “what is the rate in pages per second” might be “too hurtful” for some student as it involves a rate of less than 1 (0.3 pages per second).

    I don’t like the question about which rate they think is more useful. The rate I used was the one I thought was most useful – duh. Or, why are you asking me about rates, I am using the caveman method: 10 seconds for 3 pages, 20 seconds for 6 pages, etc. until I have about how many pages I think are in the stack.

    I think the pages per minute question could be a good hint in this case because the timer ran for a convenient amount of time (10 seconds). A student might get a feel for the problem, and start to sense how the proportion or rate works, as they ratio up by a factor of six.

    Maybe these would go under the “too helpful” category, but I might ask a student that is stuck things like: What would happen if the video clip ran twice as long? Three times as long? How much time would it take to print 12 pages? How much time would it take to print 61 pages?

    Sequel: This style of open ended questions, presumably designed to elicit creative responses, usually flops for me – maybe that says more about me than the question. I suspect many students would just give 3 more or less arbitrary numbers of pages with no justification (none was requested), which technically is as good a way to answer as any since the detail of the copy will affect the speed, and we don’t know the speed of the other three printers anyway. I would rather turn it into the house painting problem – a second printer is twice as fast or 2/3 as fast or whatever. Working together how long will it take to make 1000 copies.

  25. on 02 Aug 2011 at 6:24 pmBowen Kerins

    Be less helpful!

    I think the “extra questions” are too helpful and make the task worse. Also, #9 is a “what’s in my head” question that some students will read as “What does the teacher want me to say now?” instead of a real question to be answered. I like the alternate suggestions by Jason and Luke.

    I wouldn’t lose the extra questions altogether, since they are useful as guiding questions for teachers to use if students are off task or heading in fruitless directions. Guiding questions would also help teachers with task implementation, since there’s always the worry of “What do I do if it’s not working?” These questions should not be immediately available to students: if this task were for a textbook, those questions would go in the teacher’s edition and not the student book.

    I don’t know your grand plan, but if students work this in an online / interactive resource, the resource could provide the guiding questions behind a curtain, maybe a curtain that reveals itself only after 5 or 10 minutes of playing around with the problem (or solving a painful math-related CAPTCHA, heh). Then the guiding questions would only appear to students who need them.

    This is a real bugaboo in textbooks: if there’s any help you think students may want (important things like “Remember: the origin is the point (0,0)”), you either decide to provide it to all students by putting it in the book, or not provide it to anyone. The only in-between is leaving a note for teachers, then crossing your fingers that it gets read and used appropriately. This stinks, and nothing can be done about this. It easily leads to texts being too helpful in bad ways. But an interactive resource could make the right amount of support appear, and only when necessary.

    Lastly, I felt you should put question #2 (“Guess as close as you can”) after #3 and #4 (“too high” / “too low”), so I’m curious if you could say something about the decision to use the ordering you did. Thanks for posting it, and good luck with Project X!

  26. on 02 Aug 2011 at 7:10 pmRobert Hansen

    What comes before this activity and after? It seems to be too much cart before the horse. Actually, I haven’t seen the horse yet. I would prime them first with a discussion of a different example that they might be more familar with, say a car driving from point A to point B at some speed. And then give them the printer video and a stop watch, no hints (that solves the hint problem). And now that their young minds are about as into the world of rates as we can get them, move on with the discussion and develop the generalization and theory. But assuming the printer activity is to start in the beginning (which it can, just seems inefficient to me), then what follows it? I am trying to understand the development here.

  27. on 03 Aug 2011 at 6:24 amjosh g.

    I think Jason casually hit the nail on the head when he mentioned a teacher’s guide for something like this.

    You need to know what questions to ask as hints to students when they stall out for 10 minutes and aren’t getting anywhere. Those who have seen this kind of thing in action before will probably be able to figure something out, and will have questions 6-9 and (more importantly) 11 in their back pocket already. Those who haven’t done this before and didn’t have teacher training getting the concept of Socratic questioning in their heads will probably benefit from a cheat sheet of what they *might* need to ask and when/why.

    If it doesn’t make sense to have a second “hint” resource, maybe some of these questions could be collapsed and expanded by clicking on a “Hints” subtitle, so they’re there if kids need them but it’s more clear that they aren’t necessary.

  28. on 05 Aug 2011 at 4:39 amMegan Bartley

    After years of detesting textbooks I am so relieved to see your blog and message gaining in popularity. I sat next to a publisher at a conference years ago who asked me if I would like to edit for their company. Saying yes, I received a chapter on Optics in typeset, with no pictures or diagrams, to edit. I sent a scathing letter back and the next thing I received was a check for $100 and a copy of the book with my name in it as an editor. Wow. I attended my first Modeling in Physics workshop this summer and am ready to give it my best shot at coaching “patient problem solvers”. If you are a science teacher reading this – resources are available at http://modeling.asu.edu/ – I am also forwarding your TED lecture to the Math teachers I know. Thank you so much for your work.

  29. on 05 Aug 2011 at 8:28 amHeather

    My complaint is that I just opened the text for my 7th/8th grade classes and found a large graphic advertisement for USA Today smack-dab in the middle of the chart in chapter 1.

    The page is already cluttered. I need THIS?

  30. on 09 Aug 2011 at 4:24 pmRiggins

    Sadly so, the majority of teachers prefer spoon fed problems to be given to their students. When I sat on the the district textbook committee, we selected a more spoon fed book instead of a highly discovery based book because we didn’t want the books to be sitting in storage for 10 years until the next adoption because that is what happened to the last book because teachers didn’t want to use it because it was too discovery based. As I have been training other teachers, I have been encouraging them to throw out their ideas of limited kids and let the kids show the teachers their limits. Bit by bit more educators are getting the idea to be “less helpful” through relevant and real professional developments.

  31. on 16 Aug 2011 at 5:24 amvlorbik

    has corporate rule of the academy
    produced generations of expensive
    and mostly not-very-useful
    math-ed materials across USA?

    this appears to be more or less obvious
    to all parties not believing with steve
    “abolish pencil and paper” leinwand’s
    riotously funny remark that
    “adoptions are democratic”.

    now: what’s the solution?
    more corporate rule evidently.
    geez guys. i’m glad dan’s got
    a good job and everything but
    can we reimagine some of this
    kind of discussion with issues
    of scale and diversity and whatnot
    somehow not-entirely-ignored?

    it’s like the whole explain-budget-fiasco-
    -by-appealing-to-ward-and-june-fantasies-
    -of-family-life thing. oh, look. another
    hard-working teacher prepared another
    fine lesson and the students learned a lot.
    let’s find some way to make all these
    prisoners of the EDU-wars *pay* (and
    pay and pay) for some sick *parody*
    of that lesson by jamming it down the
    throat of entire states with governments
    so corrupt they make one nostalgic
    for richard frigging nixon. everybody
    (that counts) will make out like a bandit.

    i mean, i’m glad dan’s got a good job and all.
    but (philosophically dodgy concept alert)
    the “median math teacher” of USA has
    seen the job get worse and worse and worse.
    and promoting a few talented superstars
    into the stratosphere isn’t likely to do
    much about it.

    good on ya, dan. i expect you know
    i mean it. i’ve admired your work
    for years. “TED”, though? massively
    *part of the problem*. i’d sell out to
    the money myself in a heartbeat of course
    but haven’t been able to stir up any interest.
    in much the same way as i’d work in
    a “defense” plant making WMD’s even though
    i’ve been anti-every-war since v’nam.

    indeed i *did* get a couple of those
    “submit your carefully-prepared notes
    to our user-defiant humans-are-drones
    interface and get a small check while
    we ignore your work and print your name”
    gigs and would gladly perform this
    humiliating work full-time: baby needs
    new shoes. but my networking skills
    evidently peaked when i was back home
    in grad school ignoring “real life” like a man
    possessed; ever since i graduated, the
    world has offered me less-and-less satisfying
    work and less of it pretty doggone steadily.
    these guys only wanted me for my (tenuous)
    affiliation of course: you need a job
    to get a job.

    and, please understand. i’m hoping… against
    my usual talking-about-politics-is-useless
    strategy… here to speak for *many others*:
    maybe even a majority of “adjuncts” and probably
    a pretty goodly portion of the brave footsoldiers
    slogging it out in public schools. *however* many
    it is, and however much i hate when people
    say “we” (meaning almost anything *but*
    “you and i” when politics is the subject):
    we math-teachers-caring-about-math-
    -but-hating-and-fearing-big-money-power
    haven’t done very well since i’ve been on board
    (~1985).

    so. i know, i know. my whining is very
    unpleasant to many readers who are sure
    i deserve much worse. so my message is:
    you’re gonna hear a whole lot more *of* it
    (and not just from me) now that the
    EDU wars are in the streets. viva santiago.