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Rand Paul:

If you have one person in the country who is, like, the best at explaining calculus, that person maybe should teach every calculus class in the country.

It’d be helpful if we could work through the idea that good teaching is just good explaining and vice versa. Someone here at Twitter Math Camp mentioned she conducts a math night for parents at the start of school. “I wish I had learned math like this as a kid,” they tell her. That realization, that there is and should be a difference between how math was taught then and now, is a giant first step.

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Kate Nerdypoo:

This shows the idea that children’s minds are empty vessels that need to be filled with knowledge and teachers are the keepers of that knowledge, whose sole job is to effectively pour said knowledge into the vessel. And if their minds didn’t get filled with our knowledge the fault must lie with our explanations.

This flies in the face of what we know about teaching and learning.

Joel Patterson:

None of these reforms about math education can happen in a vacuum. There’s always a political side to what happens to people’s children, and if the way you help children learn math is important then the way you communicate with parents is also important.

Elizabeth Green compiles the history of math education in the United States from New Math to the Common Core:

Americans might have invented the world’s best methods for teaching math to children, but it was difficult to find anyone actually using them.

She also tours through some of the best ethnographic research you’ll read in math education but doesn’t cite two of them explicitly (that I counted) so I will.

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Daniel Schneider:

It might be worth noting that the paragraph about ‘answer getting’ seems to be referring to Phil Daro and his whole take on answer-getting.

Simon Terrell writes about his trip to Japan with Akihiko Takahashi.

Dan Goldner on his resolutions:

Of all the great things to focus on in this article, this is the one that spoke to me where I am now. Student-initiated in 40%, not 100%. 41% of time practicing, not 5%. Half the time on invent/think, not all the time on invent/think. I’ve been working so hard on making “invent/think” the dominant activity in my room, that practicing, which is also a cognitive requirement for learning, has been de-emphasized. The next paragraph in the article acknowledges that Japan isn’t perfect, either, and these percentages certainly aren’t a perfect recipe. But as my personal pendulum finds its equilibrium it’s great to read this and take from it the encouragement that that all the modes of learning have to have a place during the week.

Bill Gates, via Tom Hoffman:

… the one thing we have a lot of in the United States is unmotivated students.

It’s astonishing to me how many people develop their pet education theories assuming there is little or no interaction between motivation and learning, or that motivation is somehow outside the teacher’s job description. The assumption that motivation is entirely the student’s job leaves us no way to check ourselves for de-motivating pedagogy. If students don’t like sitting in warehouses, watching lecture videos, and clicking away at multiple choice questions, it’s either their own fault, or the fault of Miley Cyrus, social media, or Kids These Days, but not ours. Our theories can’t be impeached. We just need a better class of students.

Related: Rocketship charter schools (which were last seen on this blog here) are abandoning their enormous warehouses where elementary students click away at multiple choice questions:

Teachers — who are at-will employees who can be fired at any time — also criticized Rocketship’s intolerance for dissent, saying it contributed to the disastrous redesign that placed 100 students in a classroom.

“Teachers raised concerns,” said one ex-teacher, “and no discussion was allowed on the subject.”

Those who privately expressed doubt feel vindicated [by the removal of the warehouses] although sad, by the resulting test decline.


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Tom Hoffman:

I was thinking that you can tell a lot about a person’s view of education by exactly when they realize the importance of motivation. From the beginning, in the middle or at the end.

I think one thing that probably strikes teachers about Gates’ quote there is how much it sounds like a cranky old teacher in the break room.

Jay Fogleman:

I find the idea that “today’s youth” are “unmotivated” is bizarre. When teenagers are “hooked” one topic or activity, they are darn near unstoppable.

Randall Munroe, creator of the webcomic xkcd, from a TED talk that’s making the rounds:

What I love is that math lets you take some things you know and just by moving symbols around on a piece of paper find out something you didn’t know that’s very surprising. I have a lot of stupid questions and I love that math gives the power to answer them sometimes.

If you want to understand the Common Core’s fourth math practice standard, “Model with Mathematics,” you could do a lot worse than studying the mental feats Munroe performs in every single post of his What If? blog.

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Jason Dyer:

I think the bit immediately prior is worth quoting as well, even if it’s a bit harsher:

And I love calculating these kinds of things, and it’s not that I love doing the math. I do a lot of math, but I don’t really like math for its own sake.

Jim Hays:

Like on Mythbusters, Monroe is rarely content to stop with answering the question as stated: he generally keeps going bigger, faster, taller, or hotter until something explodes.

Public Relations

I’m quoted this week in a piece by Vox’s Libby Nelson on the Common Core State Standards. This reminded me to empty out my collection of podcasts, vodcasts, and press clippings, for the benefit of my doting mother if nobody else.

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