“too easy” – probably not…

Posted on March 13, 2013


… so one of the guys in the Math Literacy class has, actually, already completed Math 095 and 098, which it is set up to replace.   He has his reasons:   this will also exempt him from having to take developmental Geometry, and… he likes to learn stuff. He likes to really understand it.  He likes to change the assignments to make them more interesting. (He has scathing comments about teachers who answer his ‘why’ questions with ‘because that’s how it’s done.’)

Sometimes he has to ask why he’s doing some little bit — it doesn’t make sense to him because he “discovered” what it’s illustrating too long ago to remember it. He wanted to know why in the world they’re supposed to graph the temperature through the course of a day an April or two ago, not once but twice… once on a 0-60 scale and the second time on a 30-60 scale.

I suggested (it’s not as if I can read the minds of the author) that they’d be able to appreciate that if you change the scale on a graph you can end up interpreting the exact same information differently.   He seemed skeptical about the value of doing that… until he saw the results.  Indeed, he realized, people could very easily deceive a graph-reader into thinking things were changing much more or less drastically than they were.

(Other students are benefiting from just doing the graph twice and finding where to put the numbers, that you have to have the same scale all along,  and understanding what “start from 30” means. If I weren’t already painfully aware of the depth of math illiteracy amongst college students, this would be slapping my psyche around.)

Somebody tweeted that differentiated instruction was a sham that teachers shouldn’t even pretend to try to do.  Some of these lessons are the rich kind that are sort of self-differentiating.   My 98 guy is picking up totally different things than my “survived pre-algebra by memorizing procedures and now you want me to understand this?!”  students, who, by the way ***are*** starting to think and read and anticipate where things are going… tho’ not always, but I shan’t tell *too* many tales out of school…

It reinforces what my Orton-Gillingham experience taught me:  it’s absurd to assume that we need to proceed as rapidly as possible through content.   Math can be like a movie that you get something new out of every time you see it. It makes sense to watch and listen and encourage that happening…