Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to Help Stop Math from Sucking

When in comes to math, for many Sal Kahn, the flipped classroom (if you don't know what it is skip down to the infographic below), and flipped classroom materials like this are all the rage. But for others, we're not so enamored.

Here's why:
While there are some for whom math is magical, there are even more of us that will never ever, ever get excited when you suggest we're going to learn about polynomials, integers, or slopes.  Sure, we get that fact that if we want to go to college, we need to jump through hoops to memorize and regurgitate, but we aren't learning in meaningful ways.  For that we need to rethink math instruction.  

Below are some guys who've done just that.

Conrad Wolfram
Despite the fact that many of humanity's most thrilling creations (from rockets to stock markets) are powered by math, many of us lose interest in it. The problem is not the students.  Instead, as Conrad Wolfram explains, its how we teach math...
Calculation by hand -- isn't just tedious, it's mostly irrelevant to real mathematics and the real world. Watch Conrad as he presents his radical ideas for teaching math in a different way. 

Sol Garfunkel and David Mumford
In their New York Times Op Ed, "How to Fix Math Education," Garfunkel and Mumford explain that the current curriculum is not a good way to prepare a vast majority of high school students for life. 

Unfortunately, as they point out, our ineffective method for teaching math has been codified by the Common Core State Standards. They explain that this highly abstract curriculum is simply not the best way to prepare a vast majority of high school students for life. They suggest that instead of an abstract curriculum with mysterious characters like "x," we should imagine something different:  Replacing the sequence of algebra, geometry and calculus with a sequence of finance, data and basic engineering.

Read the complete article here.
Flipped Classroom
If you don't know what the flipped classroom is, read this infographic to find out.
The Flipped Classroom
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media


  1. Lisa - glad you highlight Wolfram, Garfunkel, and Mumford. Part of the problem is the implicit definition of math as polynomials, integers, or slopes. Math is not that, math is patterns. Your well-placed disdain is for what we have been told math is, not what it really is. It is not just math instruction that needs to be rethought (e.g., not the "how"), it is "what" is being taught that needs to be rethought. Math - patterns - doesn't suck. Forcing most people to learn about about polynomials, integers, or slopes - in the way in which it is done - does. (For most people, not for some of us.)

  2. addendum - if you haven't read this, take a few minutes and do - "A Mathematician's Lament" ( It's NOT a math article; it is a parable imagining what it would be like if music and art were taught they way math is.

  3. On the same note...

    // Of Monsters and Math //