View Full Version : A mathematician's lament

06-04-2013, 07:03 AM
I found this, from Paul Lockhart, interesting and helpful: http://www.maa.org/devlin/lockhartslament.pdf

06-04-2013, 03:29 PM
Thanks for that, Bibiche. It jives with my own experience (as a kid, I saw patterns in everything...and math is all about pattern recognition) of hating math classes for, well, hiding the patterns on me.

I am helping my daughter finish up 3rd grade math (MM) and she is just having the hardest time, motivation-wise. Interestingly, when we took some placement tests yesterday and today she tested INTO 5th grade according to two different programs (TT and MM) IF I gave her as much time as she needed to take the tests. Granted I did answer her questions about percentages, something she had not done yet, though. What gives? Basically, MATH FACTS ARE BORING. MATH, though, can be fun!

06-04-2013, 05:37 PM
we spend a lot of time with fun books like murderous maths and primary challenge math, and go quickly through boring practice. also, use timez attacks for the math facts

Stella M
06-04-2013, 06:13 PM
I just read a novel about how beautiful the patterns in maths are - The Professor and the Housekeeper. It's taken me 30 years since I 'lost' my interest in maths to start to appreciate it again.

06-04-2013, 06:48 PM
I felt alternately annoyed and in great agreement as I read that. I think that there is a way in which the subjects that we know and love best, the subjects that come easy to us can become our blind spots and I felt that in this article. Yes, I want my kids to get that sense of math - a sense I first started to get in college when I took a course on number theory. However, I also see that there's a lot of work to be done in elementary math. And the idea of not requiring any math is ludicrous to me, honestly. Basic calculation and statistical skills are important to living a productive life and I won't let them off the hook for that.

06-04-2013, 08:08 PM
Stella thanks for the book suggestion. I am going to the library to get it tomorrow. Looks like a great read!

I do agree that one must learn the basics of math, but I really feel that the real joy is beat out of us in middle and high school math.

06-05-2013, 02:55 PM
I'd love to see how he proposes teaching differential equations. Really, I would--I've forgotten and I' m about to need it again. I would rather calculate the tangent of a curved line before I would want to write out a differential equation, but that takes about two more sheets of paper.

I'm an odd duck--math clicked for me in the seventh grade and I've loved it since (with the exception of Calculus--either Liebnitz was sent by the devil or my calc professor was...maybe they both were). We talk math all the time at home--how graphing can help us decide on something, how to compare meal prices accurately, population statistics. I've always love microbiology and genetics and have recently been geeking out on economics, so finding and applying real-world mathematics isn't tough. Heck, we'll sometimes watch the show Numbers, just to talk about the mathematical applications (well, the ones I understand)!

06-05-2013, 05:22 PM
ok, didnt read the article - or maybe i did a year or more ago? but most ppl i've seen saying not to teach algebra seem to be saying that if kids arent interested in higher math, they'll never use it, so it should be optional. aside from the fact that most young teens have no real idea about what impacts what in the future . . supposedly some complete unschooled kids will ask to learn algebra in high school and keep going from there. But i've also met someone who met a kid who was sad because they were so behind in math they didnt think they'd be able to go to college (and apparently the parents were not interested in helping to remedy that)

Stella M
06-05-2013, 06:21 PM
Plus higher math is just good brain exercise, even if you won't use it later. Just like reading a classic novel is good brain exercise, even if you don't think Proust, for example, has any relevance to your life.

06-05-2013, 07:21 PM
i was reading an article about one district's struggle to implement common core . . . they were trying to get low-performing 8th graders to do literary analysis and it was clear they were totally missing it. At one point the teacher was getting very frustrated while having 3 students stand at the front of the class to stand in for words in a sentence (something like she was very tired) to help them figure out which word was the verb. The honors class, they said, had no trouble.

so it was making me think about me and my 'I"m NOT DOING LIT analysis" and that i'm now failing common core . . . sigh