kitchen table math, the sequel: writing is thinking, part 2

Monday, October 1, 2012

writing is thinking, part 2

I was talking to my friend R., an attorney, about 'Writing is thinking.'

She says, Absolutely, writing is thinking: if you can't explain something in writing, you don't understand it.

I believe that myself* and have experienced it many times. For me, writing is a diagnostic. When I discover that I can't put a concept or argument into words, I realize that I don't understand the concept. I don't know what I'm talking about, literally.

But I didn't know that going in.

* For verbal disciplines -- this idea has been wildly over-generalized to math.


Glen said...

It's even more true of programming than of writing. If explaining an idea to another human being forces you to get your thoughts in order, imagine explaining it to a machine.

SATVerbalTutor. said...

Agree 100% with R. That's why I make my SAT students write their answers out (albeit *very* quickly and in shorthand) before they look at the choices. If they can't nail what they're looking for and phrase it simply in their own words, they don't really know, and chances are they will get REALLY confused when they look at those choices.

Katharine Beals said...

The danger of "writing is thinking" is that it has motivated schools to think that all they have to do is teach thinking.

Catherine Johnson said...

lolll...yeah, well, you know what I think about that!

For the record, what I think about that is that thinking in talking is a completely different animal from thinking in writing.

I find, time and again, that my students are actually pretty good out-loud thinkers.

They are not good in-writing thinkers: they can't do the kind of ..... iterative thinking (?) .... one does in writing.

I also think it's possible one reason schools seem more and more inclined to value spoken language over written language (what with 21st century Powerpoint projects taking the place of papers and all) is that in fact spoken thought is much, much easier and more 'natural' than written thought.

Academic writing -- writing that states and supports and argument -- is fantastically artificial.

And fantastically difficult.

Catherine Johnson said...

Erica -- interesting!

Makes perfect sense.

Catherine Johnson said...

One of these days I'm going to tell my Ultimate Writing as Diagnostic story....which happened back when I was writing Shadow Syndromes.