Saturday, December 19, 2015

Favorite comments of '15: SteveH and momof4

On “I do not want my child prepared for life in the Twenty-First Century.”


SteveH said...
The list of things companies are looking for is wrong. That's what HR/Personnel might claim to better justify their position in the loop, but the people in the departments want content knowledge and skills. Woe to the STEM worker who doesn't keep up with the latest technology. My wife was told by a manager at her Fortune 500 company that people over 40 don't work as hard.

I can't begin to list all of the things wrong with Devlin's blog post. Perhaps the biggest one is his unwillingness to let opposing debate get past his moderation. If this was just any sort of person blogging about education, that would be one thing, but I can't believe that a professor at Stanford cannot or will not follow Feynman's cardinal rule of not fooling oneself.

Devlin reminds me of "idea" people who fall in love with an idea and then will not let reality get in the way, especially when there is money involved.

Besides, his arguments are old and trite. Our schools have not taught anything resembling "traditional" math in 20 years, and CCSS does not do STEM by definition.

And... PARCC's highest level in math ("distinguished") only means that one is likely to be able to pass a course in college algebra. This guarantees that one will NEVER get into Stanford. CCSS' goal is only non-remediation in college. Devlin ignores reality. Instead of just presenting his ideas (which may be interesting at some level), he plays up to the K-8 pedagogical meme. Does he really believe this will fix math in K-6 and overcome a lack of curriculum and rigor caused by CCSS, or is this an attempt to cater his ideas to a willing market because they will buy it?

I just downloaded and tried Wuzzit Trouble. Like many educational dreams, it's based on the idea that learning can be fun. That's a nice goal, but the tradeoff is usually a lot of wasted time - and annoyance for those willing and able to directly learn things.

Wuzzit Trouble (as far as I got) is an app that teaches kids about moving up and down the number line, but it uses a circular clock-like dial that goes from zero to 60 and there are no negative numbers. The idea is to move a pointer up and down the dial by using one, two, or more numbers they give you. So, if you are given move numbers of 4 and 8, and you need to go from 0 to twenty, you have to apply two 8s and one 4. You use the numbers they give you to go up and down the clock dial to get the keys to free the Wuzzits. I don't see a way to jump ahead. Like all games, it seems like you have to finish one level before you get to the next. One speed fits all.

This is classic non-traditional math-think. There is no clear "rote" algorithm. If you are at 8 and need to get to 6, but you only have +/- move numbers of 7 and 5, you need to go up 5 and down 7. However good this sort of problem is, you are stuck with the strict sequence of the game. Like student-driven discovery in class, one cannot do this for all needed learning. It is neither necessary or sufficient ... and it gets boring fast. Back to Candy Crush. Game learning always competes with the fun of real games. Guess which will win? When I have to learn something, I do not want to waste time.

One can always slow down an educational process to achieve better results, but what is the reality of a full inclusion classroom in K-6? What is the reality and pace of a proper course in algebra?

BTW, when one has to divide 23 into 1386 using a traditional algorithm, how is that different than the Wuzzit problem? How many 23 liter buckets of Kool Aid does it take before you overflow the 138 liter vat that the Wuzzits are making for their Wuzzit party? The traditional division algorithm requires a lot of number sense and mental math, but I won't expect to see a long division Wuzzit version soon. 

momof4 said…

The edworld is unaware of, or unwilling to face the fact (most likely), that not all kids find the so-called "fun" stuff to be fun. What weak, unprepared and/or unmotivated kids find "fun" is likely to be a waste of time, unappealing or downright torturous to kids on the opposite end of the spectrum. I've found this to be particularly true of games and artsy projects; kids like mine (and the one I was) would much prefer to write a proper report.

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