February 25, 2005

Teaching math

An interesting post over at About Math on teaching math, linking to this article. To me, it seems that the fundamental issue is: do you teach math as if it's beautiful or as if it's useful. When I was a kid, math was taught as if everyone wanted to be a mathematician (ie. math is beautiful), now it seems to be taught as if no one could possibly ever want to be a mathematician or even to meet one if it could be avoided (ie. merely useful). The old way served a small number of students well but probably turned off a fairly large number. It seems to me that this new approach serves the mass of students somewhat well by teaching them to balance their checkbook but that it certainly doesn't encourage students to see careers in math (& science) as fundamentally interesting. Math and science are hard -- but they need to be seen as intrinsically worth the effort. The article makes an interesting point that this is the message that kids get from their teachers who are mathophobic.

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