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Against ‘Answer Getting’

May 22, 2012
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While browsing Twitter, I came across this, tweeted by David Wees (@davidwees).

Which is a link to this video by Phil Daro:
 

(You can download it or watch online.) And obviously, I’d encourage you to go and watch it (18 minutes long).

It essentially talks about how American teachers are concerned with teaching students how to get the answer but Japanese teachers are concerned with seeing what mathematics can be taught by using the problem as a vehicle.
There are a number of points I like:
  1. Answers are part of the process, they are not the product. The product is the student’s mathematical knowledge and know-how. (The ‘correctness’ of answers is also part of the process.)
  2. 4 minutes in “Jen discovered an approach that doesn’t work. Jen, explain your discovery to the class.” “Does everyone understand Jen’s discovery? Now let’s all figure out why it didn’t work.”
  3. Using FOIL to expand double brackets is just adding something to the curriculum when you could just teach the distributive law. The distributive law still works for trinomials etc.
  4. Whenever you teach a ‘trick’ to help get the right answer, you are adding things to the curriculum (ie more things to learn) and you’re avoiding teaching actual maths.

Lots to think about!

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