kitchen table math, the sequel: Mars

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Alexander Givental writes:
Admitting publicly your love for math is likely to produce the same effect as announcing yourself a Martian.

Alas, mathematics is cherished by us, Martians for being a spectacular combination of beautiful art and deep science. Often challenging, yet enjoyable and most transparent of all subjects in school, it is a prominent and enlightening companion in life.

Well, if your eyebrows are up, look up what math means in Martian:

“The central idea of all of mathematics is to discover how it is that knowing some few things will, via reasoning, permit us to know much else — without having to commit the new information to memory as separate facts, — writes Madge Goldman, the president of Rosenbaum Foundation, in her preface to teacher’s guide to “Primary Mathematics,” the core elementary school math curriculum from Singapore, whose US edition was arranged for by the Foundation. — Mathematics is economy of information, not its unnecessary proliferation. Basic mathematics properly presented conveys this lesson. It is the connections, the reasoned, logical connections, that make mathematics manageable. Understanding the structure of mathematics is the key to success. Everyone can be 'good at mathematics,' and this textbook series, as has been proved in Singapore, shows how.”

Given the immense dedication of Tehiyah families to learning, there is little doubt that our remarkable, talented, inquisitive, intelligent kids, literally all of them, deserve and have the potential to, not just be good at math, but become true “Martians.” In this article, we highlight the necessary prerequisite for such promise to come true: the strength of our math program in Elementary School.

The math books from Singapore currently enjoy high acclaim and this year are even being put up for adoption by the California public school system. It is good to know therefore that our school began using them (namely Primary Math intended for grades 1–6, and Earlybird Math for the grade K) in Fall’04, i.e. way before they came into such fashion, and hence for reasons more sound than acclaim. What could the reasons be?

Mathematicians familiar with the present curriculum landscape attest that, unfortunately, there is not much choice. Strange as it sounds, Singapore math programs are virtually the only available elementary math curricula that don’t make a Martian cringe in embarrassment over every other page. Relying on most other programs seems just as wise as inviting Russian emigres to teach your kids English.

There is a good news too: Thanks to decades of stability in the country’s education system, Singapore math programs have evolved into materials nearly perfect pedagogically.

Is there Math on Mars? (pdf file)
By Alexander Givental

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