Affirmation

Posted on July 25, 2012

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…. the Washington Post has a guest blog from Karim Kai Ani about the Khan Academy and its hype. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/khan-academy-the-hype-and-the-reality/2012/07/23/gJQAuw4J3W_blog.html#pagebreak )  … and people are fervently defending KA, even aside from the Typical Trollposters.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that so many people really think that helping people Survive Math HOmework and Get Finished With It is a wonderful contribution to education, but it does make me sad.

On my lunch lap – at 96 degrees, even with the dry-bones humidity I was only good for one — I considered the possibility of some subtle intellectual-culture snobbery:  procedural, not-too-accurate videos are worthy of fountains of funding because, after all, if you can’t figure it out on your own from them (or with the other resources from your position of privilege), you’re really not smart enough.  Kindly settle with procedures.  The other working theory is that Khan and other teachers don’t understand the stuff either, like folks in the art gallery…

So I had two ladies doing the uber-fast algebra-in-summer thing, and the topic is roots and powers.   I’d just been skimming those Post comments… but paused to give the full-on explanation, including just how small the square root of three is, and the dramatic invention, of how having enough power inside the radical enabled you to “break free,” with lots of drawing and how the square root of 9 is three… and can be written as the square root of “three squared” is 3… and the student got to work and then got to the cube root of (8t^3), and she flagged me over and said, “I was thinking about what you said. Did I get this right?”  She had.

Then, I kid you not, and I didn’t pay them, the conversation went to wondering why teachers just told you *how* to do things, instead of explaining… that when you asked questions, they just said the same thing over again.

And then, I kid you not and I didn’t pay for it, words to the tune of “I don’t really need this much math, but I want to know it.”

Time to get to that movie…

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