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robertogreco : newmath   2

I love math, but quit teaching it because I was forced to make it boring - The Globe and Mail
"As a math teacher, there were many days I hated math more than my students did. Way more.

So I quit in 2013, happily leaving behind job security, a pension and the holy grail of teacher benefits: summers off.

Everyone thought I was crazy. I was in the early years of a divorce and had a mother and two kids to support. Almost nobody – and rightfully so, I suppose – supported my ostensibly hasty decision to abandon the education ship. There were no safety boats waiting and I was not a great swimmer. What the hell was I thinking?

In fact I was leaping off the Titanic – where actual math education is relegated to third class and was drowning along with its students.

The hardest thing to teach is mathematics. Not so much because math is hard – so is shooting three-pointers or making risotto – but because education makes it hard. Boring curriculum. Constant testing. Constant arguments over pedagogy. Lack of time. It's a Gong Show.

I found a sizable chunk of the math that I was forced to teach either a) boring; b) benign; c) banal; or d) Byzantine. The guilt of being paid to shovel this anachronistic heap of emaciated and disconnected mathematics around finally caught up with me.

I quit because I felt like a charlatan when I implicitly or explicitly told my students that what we were learning reflected the heart of mathematics or that it was the core of lifelong practicality. "When are we going to use this?" has been the No. 1 whine in math classes for a few generations. We should stop trying to sell mathematics for its usefulness. It's not why you or I should learn it.

Earlier this year, Francis Su, the outgoing president of the Mathematical Association of America, gave a speech for the ages. He referenced a prisoner named Christopher serving a long prison sentence, teaching himself mathematics. "Mathematics helps people flourish," he said. "Mathematics is for human flourishing." In a follow-up interview, Su talked about how math should involve beauty, truth, justice, love and play. Not sure about you, but my math education and Ontario teaching experience were the furthest things from these virtues. In Ontario, kids are imprisoned with criminally bland mathematics – so are the teachers.

I left teaching because my impact on math education lay beyond my classroom and my school. I felt I could contribute my passion/understanding for mathematics on a larger stage – maybe global. I was dreaming, but sometimes chasing your dreams is worth all the outside skepticism and uphill climbs. At one point, I was penniless at 50, stressed, confused and disappointed. But I wasn't unhappy. I was rescued by the light and humanity of mathematics.

Fast forward four years. I've written a book about the hidden happiness of math. I work remotely for a Canadian digital math resource company and I travel all over North America speaking about my almost gnawing passion of mathematics. I felt that I couldn't share that passion for most of my teaching career because the unchecked bureaucracy of the education system was more interested in data from standardized test scores and putting pedagogy ahead of mathematics. As such, the culture of mathematics has almost been shaded into obscurity.

So now, when I see the flood of math articles about Ontario's low math scores, I put my head in my hands and worry my eyes might just roll too far back into my head.

Every year is a contest to see who will win this year's huffing and puffing award about the province's low standardized test scores. For the past few years, arguments about old math versus new math have been running away with the trophy. Although, headlines crying Elementary Teachers Need More Math Training are often the runner-up.

As a student, I went through that "old" system. Sure, I got plenty of As and gold stars, but it took me well into my teaching career to really understand a fraction of the things I thought I knew.

Calculus? Pfff. Get rid of that thing, it belongs in university after a serious boot camp of algebra. Fractions, as with unsafe firecrackers, need to be pulled out of the hands of younger students and introduced to them in their hormonal years. Why are teachers asking students to flip and multiply fractions when you need to divide them? Anyone care to explain that to children – why fractions are doing gymnastics to arrive at the correct answer?

There are so many amazing teachers fighting the good fight. But until the real culprit – the government – gets called out for manufacturing a dog's breakfast of math education, students will continue to suffer in the classroom."
sfsh  mth  mathematics  teaching  education  testing  standardizedtesting  2017  sunilsingh  calculus  curriculum  pedagogy  cv  learning  francissu  math  beauty  truth  justice  love  play  happiness  bureaucracy  oldmath  newmath  fractions 
october 2017 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: Why we think 1970s Open Education failed, and considering what the truth really is...
"There are some of us who remember a time, both in the US and the UK, when education seemed to be in search for humanity. In this period test scores mattered less than accomplishments, students became far more involved in, and responsible for, educational decisions, responsibility was something it was assumed children and adolescents could handle, and pedagogy began to meet students where they were. It was a time when teachers and even administrators began to rebel against the American factory schools and the British Disraeli-designed colonial education system.

Today we are taught that this period was a chaotic failure, but the truth lies elsewhere, and the reason we are told of this "failure" can be keenly instructive.

We tend now, after years of political conservatism, to look back at the 1960s and 1970s as a time of dangerous and ineffective turmoil, of assassinations, riots, disruptions, inflation, and the decline of traditional values. Thus we rarely understand the accomplishments. But between 1960 and 1976 a vast number of Americans, including Women, African-Americans, and even some Latinos and Gays,were liberated from those traditional values, with earthshaking changes made in legal racial segregation, legal limitations of women's educational opportunities, job opportunities, and pay, legal exploitation of farm workers, legal arrests for consensual sexual activity between adults. The now much maligned War on Poverty lifted tens of millions of Americans - mostly white Americans to be clear - from "developing world" levels of poverty, by redistributing income from the Northeast and West Coast to states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. When Republicans now say that the American poor have a lot more than the poor elsewhere, that is only true because of The Great Society program, its welfare structures, Medicaid, Medicare, and rural electrification."

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irsocolo  education  history  progressive  progressiveeducation  openclassroom  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  humanism  teaching  learning  unschooling  conservatism  1960s  19070s  1975  thegreatsociety  self-directedlearning  bankstreet  cuisinairerods  bankstreetreaders  newmath  wholelanguage  differentiation  howweteach  howwetaught  williamalcott  horacemann  henrybarnard  calvinism  johnholt  neilpostman  alfiekohn  johndewey  mariamontessori  factoryschools  class  poverty  control  newrochlle  alanshapiro  openeducation  open  robertmarzano  robertslavin  kipp  1971 
february 2014 by robertogreco

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