Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] On mathematics...

From: Carol Hughes <>
Date: Sun Nov 28 18:16:00 2004

Keep your shirt on. Nowhere do I say that mathematics is not a worthwhile subject. I believe it is not necessary for every student to learn it in depth. Neither do I think you need to play the piano and sing, or be a scintillating speaker/writer in order to have a balanced and meaningful life. For the record, I loved math in school. I have worked in private banking with lots of zeros and managed billionaire's portfolios. I'm old enough that I studied the "new" math in college. I find that often, some of my bright piano students are also good at math. The relationships of sound and keys and notes etc. is very mathematical and logical. I do however, believe that fundamentally all academically presented subject matter is an abstract thing. Of course some of SVS students have gone on to excel in math, because they were free to pursue their passion, and a wonderful one it is. And please don't get me started on history books. I in no way intend to bash the sciences and math. My son is a Chiropractor and had to take a jillion anatomy and physiology courses. What I hoped to convey in my message is that negative commentary and bashing of a student is the myth and stereotype that should be demolished. And in point of fact, I do have a crystal ball and know how to use it. Don't want a war, I just can't stand by and watch a child get labeled and marked for failure at an age when she should be feeling totally magical. Chilton-Pierce's books - Crack in the Cosmic Egg, and The Magical Child are where I'm coming from here. So finally, math is beautiful, and this little girl may find that out someday if they don't make her want to run every time it's mentioned.

Hi All,

  At the risk of starting a war, I can't begin to say how troubling it is to hear and read various statements made about mathematics as if "it" is some kind of demon. Just like singing, studying bacteria, re-building car blocks, writing poetry, and so, mathematics is a deeply human ACTIVITY. It can be and is something beautiful that people can and do engage in. The continued "utilitarian" framing of it only continues to suggest that it as something that some people can do and the rest of society doesn't really *need* it. The notion that it is some kind of abstract "thing" is a kind of perversion, easily debunked.

  Sadly, most people simply will never have the same measure of appreciation of mathematics. Moreover, I might point out that one of SVS's very own students has gone on to become a professor of mathematics. Carol, I might say that just because *you* have managed to get through life "without knowing squat about math" (if one might deduce such a thing from your comments below), does not mean that the same could be said for others. Suggesting that one does not "need" something, even implicitly and subtly, is just as much an act of coercion as something much more explicit (like deliberately not including books on algebra, arithmetic, its psychology and history, for instance).

  I think that it is wonderful that we can be surrounded by people who inspire us to look at the world and jump in and do whatever really excites us and interests, but for cryin' out loud, we can really do without the negative commentary and bashing of the sciences and mathematics. These are myths and stereotypes that deserve to be demolished.

  And, last...never say never. Statements like "she...will probably never do math unless..." is so naive. What crystal ball is there that can even say such thing!?!? The FACT is, no one really knows where their learning will take them.

  For a thoughtful look at mathematics and mathematical learning/understanding, I would suggest reading Brent Davis' book called "Teaching Mathematics: Toward a Sound Alternative".


  From: [] On Behalf Of Carol Hughes
  Sent: Sunday, November 28, 2004 10:23 AM
  Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Where to begin?

  Hi Susan,
  It is no surprise to me that your artistic daughter doesn't care for math. Our very artistic nineteen year old daughter who is brilliant, creative, sings, plays the piano, paints, writes well and has great wisdom with human behavior will probably never do math unless it is mandated by some outside authority. Right-brain oriented people simply don't respond to the abstract,symbol oriented world. In my humble opinion, they don't need it. Peculiar learning style, or just one this teacher doesn't relate to from her limited experience in the world. A traditionally trained teacher cannot easily change their stripes. I once visited a Montesorri school with a friend of mine and my three year old in tow. When we went into the classroom my son picked up a couple of the neat looking Montesorri things. The teacher quietly took them from him and put them back. So, from that one gesture I advised my friend to look again carefully. Have you read Maria Montesorri's biography? Some of the things teachers are doing in these schools would absolutely cause her to "turn over in her grave". Make no mistake about it, a Sudbury Valley School is as real as it gets. If you can, try not to make a big deal out of the subject. Let her try it as much as she can stand and then consequences be "%^&*&^%". The decision to make certain subjects a must for children is simply arbitrary. In truth your daughter can hire a good accountant who loves numbers if she needs the service. Calculators and computers can do the rest. She can live her entire life without knowing squat about math. Man, do I hate the words "failure to perform". It's definately not okay for your daughter to be described that way. Seems to me the "failure to perform" is the school's. Keep questioning. Trust your instincts. I would lose the tutoring. Tell her the school is not equipped to deal with her way of thinking and that's okay. Making her feel like there is some kind of defect, or fire to put out will stay with her for a lifetime. Ah, but mom taking a stand and backing off on her behalf... that will stay with her for a lifetime too.
  Just my opinion,
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: susan robinson
    Sent: Sunday, November 28, 2004 12:01 PM
    Subject: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Where to begin?

    I am reading Free at Last, which I obtained from Abraham-Hicks Publications. Our daughter is 8 and attends a local Montessori in Palm Harbor, Florida. Our sweet 8 year old is struggling with math, and I am struggling with trying to coerce her into learning it. It's a no win deal. We have her enrolled in Kumon math tutoring, which she attempts to avoid and postpone on a daily basis. Her teacher at Montessori told me that she has a "peculiar learning style". I tried to explain that she loves the freedom to choose, that her "failure to perform" certain class assignments are due to a lack of interest rather than a lack of intelligence. Our daughter sparkles. She loves people and loves art, but loves people best of all. I consider it a rare gift, and I can see how the use of coercion, even in the forms of rewards and incentives, dims her. I'm looking for a frame of reference that builds a foundation for integrating freedom into living in the "real world" of responsibilities. I'd like to receive suggestions. We're not quite ready to move to Massachusetts for our daughter to enroll in SVS (although it is certainly an option to be considered). I also need to understand more about how democracy can work; I've often found myself in the minority opinion and outvoted in many so-called democracies.
Received on Sun Nov 28 2004 - 18:15:19 EST

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