[Squeakland] Panel discussion: Can the American Mind be Opened?

subbukk subbukk at gmail.com
Mon Nov 26 19:07:56 PST 2007

On Saturday 24 November 2007 7:23 pm, Bill Kerr wrote:
> I followed that link in the history to this paper which is a more direct
> and concrete critique of discovery learning taken too far, with well
> explained examples of different approaches:
> http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/fall99/wu.pdf
> A Bogus Dichotomy in Mathematics Education
> BY H. WU
Prof. Wu does well to call the bluff in treating skills vs. understanding as a 
zero sum game. However, I find some of his claims run counter to my own 
observations of how children learn. The claim "children welcome any 
suggestions that save labor" is simply not true. On encountering a concept 
for the first time, children tend to repeat it many times even though the 
process is quite tedious. It is only after many repetitions that they become 
receptive to suggestions to shortcuts. Either they discover the pattern by 
themselves or can be nudged gently towards the Aha discovery either by the 
teacher or by their peers.

The issue that I have with algorithms being taught in schools is that they are 
introduced too early in the learning curve and are often introduced as "the 
method". I have seen many untutored people learn to do additions left to 
right. They would tie themselves into knots if asked to use the conventional 
right to left method.


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