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Mathematical Regression

A self-proclaimed "math geek"- also a school administrator and former math teacher – thinks the proposed changes to the math curriculum in New York state are headed in the wrong direction.

To put it simply, the end product seeks to take mathematics back to the days of mindless manipulation and drill and kill. If you read the 87-page document in its entirety, there are two words that you will not find: real world.

What you will find is obscure geometric theorems that mathematicians don’t even use and algebraic techniques that hand-held calculators carry out at the push of a button in a fraction of a second.

If that’s not bad enough, the proposed changes require formal or informal proofs of approximately 20 additional geometric theorems. Math geeks like us love proving mathematical theorems, but any classroom veteran will tell you that the vast majority of 10-grade students hate the entire process. They simply lack the intellectual maturity to value the tediousness of this enterprise.

We believe that there is both power and beauty in mathematics for its own sake, but there is even more power and beauty that derives from using mathematics to solve the kind of problems that people from all walks of life encounter every day. Shockingly, that power and beauty is sadly lacking in the proposed "improved" curriculum.

Trying to reproduce a mid-20th century curriculum by pretending that Geometric proofs have some meaning in high school math and that hand-held computers (the device formerly known as a "calculator") don’t exist, does a major disservice to the students. Most of them are perfectly capable of learning the mechanics of mathematics as they learn the applications and that’s the only way math should be taught.

1 Comment

  1. Chris Lehmann

    Except that proofs are beautiful… seriously, I agree with almost all of what you say, but proofs show kids the beauty of math, and I’d hate to lose that.

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