Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] RE:autonomy and whether contact with algebra is necessary

From: Mike Sadofsky <>
Date: Tue Feb 25 10:13:00 2003

On Tue, 25 Feb 2003 14:10:51 -0000, "Fiona Berry"
<> wrote:

> I have recently been given a copy of "Mathematician's delight" by
>W.w. Sawyer, in which he likens the teaching of mathematics in many schools
>to the process of teaching the piano to a totally deaf child. The child
>will understand that they have done something right or wrong due to the
>expression on the teacher's face, but may never come to an understanding of
>why they are doing what they are doing. When children are taught the how
>but not the why of mathematics, he calls this imitation mathematics, which
>is joined by many other imitation subjects - imitation history involves
>learning dates and names but having no understanding of the whys of history,
>imitation Shakespeare involves making it incomprehensible and forcing
>children to act it badly, rather than showing them at the right time for
>them that it can be wonderful and the language uniquely beautiful.

Perhaps I am at risk of overemphasizing here, but this reminds me of a
situation that was far from unusual throughout my career in science,
technology, and management. I would frequently find myself with
university degreed scientists and engineers who were unable to develop
a rather straightforward mathematical expression (a model) of the data
or system they needed to analyze as part of their job. They had no
idea how to proceed. In many instances, the need was not esoteric
mathematics. Often relatively simple algebra or geometry or
trigonometry or first year calculus was all that was necessary. Yet a
vast gap existed between their understanding of mathematics and their
ability to apply it to problems in their chosen career field.

Received on Tue Feb 25 2003 - 10:12:32 EST

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