Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sudden Revelation About Education

I was involved in a discussion about Math on an education website. One of the commenters wrote the following:

Every lesson was memorizing and practicing a new algorithm. I had the right
answer every time, but I can’t tell you the underlying purpose for even one.There needs to be some balance between memorization and understanding.

This is my response:

Here is the basis of the problem for almost every problem with modern education.
Modern education is based on curriculum written by education professionals, that is people who have been trained and educated in understanding underlying purposes and principles.
What most of them fail to understand, or have forgotten, is that the vast majority of people will never need, and do not desire, to understand the underlying purposes and principles. They just need to be able to get the right answer.

Elementary, Middle and High school students only need to learn how to get the right answers and memorize the basic facts. For something like 75% of the people, that is all they will ever need.

People who need to understand the underlying purposes and principles can go to college to learn them.


Stephen R said...

Geez Man -- I almost completely disagree with you on this one.

Reminds me of when they were letting grade school kids use calculators in math class. Surprise, surprise -- the kids weren't learning math at all, they were just learning how to punch buttons on the calculators.

So what's the problem with that if they get the right answer? Well, if they hit a wrong button and got a WILDLY wrong answer (e.g. 20 x 5 = 1,100) they would happily write that answer down and have no idea that it might be wrong.

...because they had no idea what they were doing, except that they punch the problem into the machine and whatever pops out is the answer.

Gahrie said...


You are misinterpreting me. I agree with you %100 on calculators. I don't think schools should have calculators before trig or calc.

The key phrase I used was:

need to learn how to get the right answers and memorize the basic facts.

As far as math is concerned, I am a firm believer in what is called drill and kill. Teach the kids how to do it, drill them until they can do it. They can learn the "whys" in college if they need to.