[Squeakland] the non universals

David Corking lists at dcorking.com
Thu Aug 16 13:52:03 PDT 2007


I am afraid I cannot yet share your pessimism (if that is indeed what
you intended to convey in your earlier posts)

On 8/16/07, Alan Kay wrote:

>  Any one fluent in mathematics can recognize this (but it took a Papert to
> first point it out). But, virtually no one without fluency in mathematics
> can recognize this. And surveys have shown that less than 5% of Americans
> are fluent in math or science. Many of the 95% were able to go through 16
> years of schooling and successfully get a college degree without attaining
> any fluency in math or science.

I am no historian, but I would like to guess that 5% is quite a large
number compared to previous centuries, and these fluent mathematicians
should be heavily overrepresented among secondary school math and
science teachers.  I concede that such a person will be rare among
primary school teachers (excepting those who frequent squeakland.org
of course)

I hope, perhaps optimistically, that most high schools and
universities across the world teach 19th century applied math (I don't
know - I only went to one or two of each - and one of those high
schools taught a kind of dusty tedious rote algebra, without ever even
hinting that applied math was a much wider, richer and more
interesting field.)

I was wrong to point to the purpose of universities - individual
university teachers are more important - and those who are interested
in teaching students, I would argue, aim to nurture creative and
powerful thought.  I really hope they did so for the math and science
teachers passing through their halls.

While for the next generation primary (K-6) teachers may be a lost
cause, what I want to understand is why you (Alan) don't find large
numbers of secondary (grades 7 - 12/13) math and science teachers
becoming advocates and allies of the reforms you are proposing.

So perhaps I will  attempt a better phrasing of my question:

1. Are the math and science teachers not aware that calculus is a
'powerful idea'?

2. If they are, are they not sufficiently fluent in it to understand
that their current teaching method (whatever that is) is not engaging
and developing nearly as many pupils as have the potential to get it,
enjoy it and use it?

3. Or is there some other reason, such as suspicion of new methods,
waiting for something better, or insufficient time after concentrating
on basic numeracy?

The reason for the question is my big worry, inspired by your original
post: if Papert's ideas don't engage secondary school math teachers,
they have few other advocates left.  There is no back door to get
around these gatekeepers.


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