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"Economical" Mathematics

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One of the sites I visit regularly is the Numb3rs blog, written by a mathematician at Northeastern University. The site deals with the math topics that arise in the show of the same name. (No link given, for reasons below.) He does a great job of explication, and provides some interesting links. It certainly makes the show more enjoyable knowing that there is a good independent reference for the material.

But I find this odd:

Numb3rs appears on CBS which is part of CBS-Paramount, a very large corporate entity, as is TI. Neither supports this blog in any way even though your blogmeister reviews scripts for mathematical content gratis for the show. I do this as an effort to promote the understanding of mathematics -- the same reason I write this blog. In spite of several requests, neither CBS nor TI will provide a link on any of their websites to this blog; they won't even mention it as a resource. What's even more surprising is that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), a group supposedly dedicated to mathematics education, and tied rather closely to TI, has also refused to reference this blog as a resource for mathematics education.

I suppose this could simply be another case of old media not quite understanding the value of having numerous in-roads for new viewers. The number of math blogs has blossomed of late (witnessed by the flourishing -- and highly entertaining -- Carnival of Mathematics), much like economics blogs in 2005/2006. CBS and Texas Instruments are, of course, private entities free to link to whomever and whatever they wish. Though, if they want to willingly ignore -- while relying on the expertise of -- their best ambassador, I'll feel free to ignore linking to their sites.

And while I don't find it at all surprising, I do think the most telling piece of information is the fact that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics are so dense as to ignore the value of something like the Numb3rs blog. While Dr. Bridger makes some note of the NCTM's connections with TI, I can't speak to it directly -- unfortunately, I also have no reason to doubt it, either.

Aside: Access to the NCTM's documented standards for math education is pay-for-play. Seems they've learned a bit of economics themselves. Though not enough; free dissemination of the work might promote wider adoption. Never forget that not-for-profit is not equivalent to not-for-revenue. End aside.

That a public group has decided to shun connections to anyone outside their direct control is sad, though not at all unusual. Perhaps the decision to ignore Dr. Bridger's site is a remnant of the rift NCTM had with groups of actual mathematicians who disagreed with their attempts to revive the New Math teaching paradigm. The narrow view emphasizes the fact that groups like the NCTM are largely more concerned with their own existence than in achieving their stated goals. What could possibly hurt in showing kids the work that actual, employed mathematicians do on a day to day basis? Unless, of course, that means they get exposed to things that contradict the "consensus" view of the NCTM.

-The NCTM recommends "decreased attention" for "finding exact forms of answers". (5.8.O)

I'm sure this is comforting to anyone who relies on, well, anything built by engineers.

Singapore Math


The Hoover Institute's Hoover Digest has an article taling about Singapore Maths lack of adoption in the U.S. It is interesting how little attention has been paid to the tiny city-state's math ciriculum considering they are the world's top scorers. My guess is, as the article suggests, that our math teachers are resistant because of their poor math skills and the differences in the way its taught. There aren't a lot of pretty pictures in the Singapore Maths books:

Unlike many American math textbooks, such as Math Thematics, published by Houghton Mifflin, which are thick, multicolored, and multicultural, Singapore’s books are thin and contain only mathematics. There are no graphics (other than occasional cartoons pertaining to the lesson at hand), no spreadsheet problems, and no problems asking students to use a calculator to find the mean number of dogs in a U.S. household. With SM, students are required to show their mathematical work, not explain in essays how they did the problems or how they felt about them. While a single lesson in a U.S. textbook might span two pages and take one class period to go through, a lesson in a Singapore textbook might use five to ten pages and take several days to complete. The Singapore texts contain no narrative explanation of how a procedure or concept works; instead, there are problems and questions accompanied by pictures that provide hints about what is going on. According to the AIR report, the Singapore program “provides rich problem sets that give students many and varied opportunities to apply the concepts they have learned.”
At the end of the article, it notes that people in Washington state are pushing for it to be adopted state wide. If they do it, hope they do it right and not let it be sabotaged by the forces that be.

Green Dot

Unschooling for democracy

It’s always harder to forge your own path without someone telling you what to do.”- Peter Kowalke, 27, unschooled as a child

Gary at Spontaneous Order makes a good comment about why some people may not like homeschooling;

From the demand side, the reason why parents may not want to teach their own kids (other factors being held constant, like their income, time availability, their educational level) at home also occured to me while reading the same NYT story. Peoples' innate fear to go about their own way without guidance. People simply want to be told what to do. This seems related to what Hayek has said in Fatal Conceit. That contemporary people still have that lingering longing to be led, part of the legacy we inherit to this day from the time when we live in a small community and individuals' decisions are made according to the directions of the wiseman in the group.

The other day I heard the exactly the same comment made by a local chief from one of the islands commenting on 3rd November 1988 attempted coup incident –‘The greatest worry we felt was that we had no one to show us the direction, show us the guidance from the capital, Male’. And we had to plan and do things on our own.’

I don’t know whether our first priority aught to be a mentality overhaul before we can think about democracy?


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