kitchen table math, the sequel: 8/11/13 - 8/18/13

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Good News for Math Beasts

Good news to report! The Art of Problem Solving has released book 4A from its Beast Academy series and is hard at work at the rest of grade 4 and all of grade 5.

Algebra 1 in the 8th Grade (...or not)

Boston Globe (North) Reading’s New Math Curriculum Runs into Protests The district has adopted a new sequence that leaves more than 80 percent of eighth-graders without a direct path to a high school calculus course. Only 18 percent will be enrolled in algebra 1, compared with 60 percent to 65 percent in previous years, according to Craig Martin, Reading’s assistant superintendent for learning and teaching. [Parents] have expressed concern that the school system’s departure from the traditional math sequence, which required a majority of students to take algebra 1 in eighth grade, may leave little room for a high school calculus class, a requirement at many colleges for acceptance into a science or engineering undergraduate program.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Apparently students who attend Ivy League schools are good memorizers

Yale students seem to have spent so much time memorizing history facts and dates that Professor Joanne Freeman feels compelled to warn students against the Revolutionary War "fact bubble":
Tip number one is don't get lost in the dreaded Revolutionary War fact bubble, which I have to say it makes me think of the first time that I taught this course. I was actually a brand new professor and I had just come to Yale and it was my first course and it was my first lecture in my first course and I'm [sound cuts out] It actually was in Connecticut Hall, which, for those of you who don't know, dates back to the period when this course is talking about and was Nathan Hale's -- essentially his dorm. So there I am. I'm a brand new professor to Yale and I'm teaching a course about the Revolution and it's in a building that dates to the Revolution, so I'm having sort of a "wow" Yale moment as it is, and I'm off, I'm giving my lectures, and I'm really excited. I give about three of them and someone raises their hand after about three lectures and they have a kind of a puzzled expression on their face. I said, "Yes?" And he says, "Excuse me, Professor Freeman. What are we supposed to be memorizing? Where are the facts and dates?" [laughs] So as a new professor my first impulse was: Darn! I forgot the facts and dates. [laughter] I got it wrong. [laughs] But actually, the fact of the matter is, they're not the star of the show. Certainly, dates are not the star of the show. There are dates you're going to have to remember so don't think Easy Street; there's not a date I have to know. There will be some dates, but this isn't a story about dates. It's obviously something a lot more interesting and a lot broader than that. Okay. Avoid fact bubble.

Joanne Freeman "American Revolution" | Lecture 1 Introduction: Freeman's Top Five Tips for Studying the Revolution
Obviously, excessive memorization didn't keep these students out of Yale.

I'm sure there's a reason for that, the reason being that excessive memorization actually helped.

And here is Daniel Willingham:  prior knowledge & working memory in 1 paragraph

"Brief History of Mankind" starts tomorrow (& a MOOC thought)

At Coursera.

I'm loving Joanne Freeman's American Revolution course, though I'm making my way through it only slowly (& doing none of the reading, sad to say).

I had a revelation the other day that watching a videotape of a lecture delivered in a lecture course may actually work for the same reason watching a videotape of a stand-up comedy routine works. The lecture course and the comedy routine are the same form: one person, on stage, talking to a very large group of people who don't know each other.

Freeman's "American Revolution" is a classic lecture-hall survey; she doesn't even use Powerpoints! At one point, early on, she says "So that's what I mainly address for the rest of the lecture, and I'm going to talk about it by focusing on three different points" -- and she holds up three fingers.

The three-finger moment was interesting to me because, at Yale, when a professor says she is going to be focusing on three points, attention is paid. 

From the transcript:
So that's what I mainly address for the rest of the lecture, and I'm going to talk about it by focusing on three different points. Point number one: I'm going to talk a little bit about the distinctive character of the people who migrated to the colonies. [here she reacts to her student audience & starts laughing] It gives you such a sense of power when you're lecturing and you say, "There are three reasons" and the entire rooms goes: "Oh." [laughter] "Three. There are three." So there are three. So number one is the distinctive character of the people who migrated to the colonies. Number two is the distinctive conditions of life in British America, -- and that point I'll talk about for the longest. And then number three is the nature of British colonial administration. And I'll repeat that: the distinctive character of the people who migrated to the colonies, the distinctive conditions of life in British North America, and the nature of British colonial administration."
Lecture 3 The American Revolution: Being a British American | January 19, 2010
Freeman makes a number of references to eager-beaver student behavior throughout her lectures.