March 12, 2010

I like being thoughtfully questioned by someone I truly love and respect.  Because it causes me to think deeply about my choices.  Yesterday I was asked how the children will learn to solve differential equations.   I replied and the children sat patiently while Allan and I started talking about math, God, quantum physics, the shallow arguments behind "Intelligent Design", and finally ending with a demonstration of algebra and how to find the slope of this angle.   All fine and well.  All much richer, though mostly over the heads of the children, than anything they might have heard in school this year.  We learned of something called strange quarks

But I've continued to think about his question all night.  I wrote a long blog post about elementary education and deleted it.  I've already said all that before.  But I can sum it up this way.  He spent his college years studying math.  I spent my college years studying homebirth.   We are both very intelligent adults working and contributing to society.  He has one set of skills.  I have another.  Both are valuable.  Neither remotely impacted by what happened to either of us in math class in elementary school.  Elementary math is completely irrelevant.  Because the standard elementary curriculum is arbitrary, unproven, and potentially more harmful than helpful for growing intelligent thoughtful humans. 

There is no evidence that drilling math helps children be smarter.   No evidence what so ever.  None.  Think about that while you are arguing over homework with a child who is clearly bored.


Cecelia (CC) said...

how many hundreds of times have you heard someone say they never used quadratic equations after school, or chemical ones. I never fact, I quit after Algebra II/ boyfriend was an equation whiz. Som there's that part. And then, as soon as I heard the question I thought, "Who asked that? Do they know how to do them? Can they be a mentor?" Funny to read on and learn they already are. what a brilliant Mom to choose such wonderful influences for your kids. In our house,we do math all the time in context. yesterday" how many minutes until we get there? 20. How many seconds is that? Let's figure it out. We got 600 easily, then doubled ten. then started counting. At 300 I stopped. What percent of 1200 is 300? fractions, like a half, how far have we counted? "Oh! A quarter!"...yes! I was satisfied that the three minute math lesson on the way to visit grandma and in context was a win. And little sister got to practice counting to 300 without being asked to do so but rather as a joke and challenge to Mom. Oh, and we laughed the whole time.

Katherine said...

"...and we laughed the whole time." That's it! Context and joy, all the educational tools you need. Right?

Ticodillo said...

Agreed, I despised math in school. Math homework was the torture that would buy me the right to play nothing more, and i must say, i think it turned me off to math everywhere else and made me feel like a total underachiever. Sad ... I like math now but i still feel like I'm not good at it.
Not to bounce the subject, but what are your views on "intelligent design"? Just curious.

Katherine said...

Well, to digress even further off point, I am a person who CANNOT understand why folks get so persnickity about staying on topic online. Maybe they spent too much time in school regimentally studying exactly one topic per hour? Anyhoo...intelligent design. Let me give you the context of that conversation. I was talking with a man who is deeply profoundly amazingly and inspiringly devoutly Christian. I have never met anyone so intelligent yet so faithfully walking the walk. He knows I am not a Christian. He's fine with that. So we started talking about evolution, which he and I both completely agree happened and is happening. I said I saw no conflict between evolution and intelligent design. Which I thought was what Christian people who believe in evolution call the whole thing. That set Allan off on how absurd that whole theory is. So, I suppose my answer is that I don't really have an opinion about Intelligent Design. I believe in evolution. I do believe in God. If God created evolution, great. Allan thinks it demeans the glory of God to suggest God didn't come up with the whole system - which we still don't fully understand - which got us started talking about quarks. Everyone needs to meet Allan. He is a true gem on this earth. We couldn't be more different. And I truly adore the man.

We moved to Texas some years ago. It was not until we moved there that I learned there are folks who don't believe in evolution. Sincerely, I thought people who didn't believe in evolution died out a hundred years ago. I was dumbfounded. Live and learn.

Amy said...

You know, regarding math, I never understood math in elementary school and most of middle school. I got basic addition/subtraction/division for the most part, but it was always so abstract and I could never fully grasp it no matter how hard I tried.

In college I wanted to major in biology, but I couldn't pass the required calculus class, so I joined 85% of the other females and majored in elementary education. I had to take "math theory" which was learning the principles behind math for preschool through middle school grades. It was so's actually funny. They did a huge two semester review of practical math and then in the math teaching course you had to learn how to make your lessons all compartmentalized and confusing with worksheets and bulletin boards and unit studies for the classroom. After taking that math theory course of practical applications I totally understand everything about basic elementary math and algebra!

As a side note, I dropped out the last part of my four years and decided I could never, ever let my children go to an institutionalized school or be forced to do traditional learning. If anyone ever has any doubts about homeschooling or unschooling all they need to do is go to school for elementary education. *shudder*

(Please excuse any typos or lack of clarity, I have a 3 year old bouncing on me!)

Cecelia (CC) said...

I laughed last night as I recalled yoru words and was in a bit of a 'moment'...what about being thoughtfully questioned by someone you love and have a hard time respecting?

he he he