Posted on July 17, 2013


I really am enjoying the “how to learn math” course.   Face it, most “free online seminars” have a commercial backing and are trying to sell a product.    I’ll grant that this is “selling” an approach to teaching math, but it’s doing it in a scholarly way.   The ratio of “let me tell you this story!”  so you can believe it will work (like so many infomercials) to “here’s some research… and here’s the reference to it…” is much nicer than most.  

      Still, hearing the persistent “you must keep them *****challenged!!!***** with ***hard problems!****   is setting off my radar for “well, I hope they learned it — I exposed them to it!” teaching.   

      I do think it’s absolutely imperative that problems be challenging and multi-dimensional, not just “here, do this kind of problem until you’ve got it…” and move on.   

     However, http://usablelearning.com/2010/02/04/id-webcomic-3-just-like-riding-a-bike/ comes to mind.   If we’re always grinding up a hill, we’re going to cramp up and wear out. 

     The students in front of me are coming to mind.   If I’m busy challenging, challenging, challenging… then conceptual gaps don’t get addressed and students are forced into cognitive shortcuts. 

     There was one question where I answered on a completely different wavelength.   We were supposed to just put down, in as few words as possible, what we thought contributed to students’ fear of making mistakes. 

     I wrote that “mistakes can kill.”   I mean, getting things wrong is *usually* a bad thing and you can’t undo ’em.   Also that it’s just not fun to be wrong, *and* that usually you weren’t going to understand the explanation anyway. 

    No, the answer I was supposed to come up with seems to have been TIMED TESTS.   Oh, my.   We should utterly and completely abolish all things timed, period.   

    I appreciated the idea that for students that got anxious in timed tests, they were being forced into those working-memory-depriving, concept-developing survival strategies, and that this would include the kiddos Getting Everything Right.   I also fully agree that we don’t want to teach students that Fast Is Smart. 

     However, I honestly think that some teachers just might, possibly, use timing as a way to chart student progress (as opposed to making it a win/lose, competitive thing).   

    On the third hand, I’m *not* saying this from the trenches.   If it’s generally being done badly, then … I can understand wanting to pass a Prohibition law, and I doubt people will be compelled to have “timed test speakeasies” because they want ’em so badly… they’re not necessary. 

    I’ve been told that we’ll learn some wonderful otehr ways to develop automaticity.   I’m going to step away from the MOOC now, though… powerpoints are calling me…

(Oh… and I’m getting more traffic to my home page, not to inner pages, probably a reflection of twitterspambots, since even the comment that seemed human generated was a barely veiled product plug.)

Posted in: math, math anxiety