Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mathematics and the Real World

I read the following article regarding mathematics education:

Study Suggests Scrapping Balls and Slices

I agree with the fundemantals of research, teaching mathematical concepts through concrete applications doesn't work, but using concrete applications to deepen understanding may work. I agree that teaching the abstract principles should come first, but to fully understand the principles and understand how to use the principles one should use a mix of abstract and concrete problems. Mr. Sloutsky alluded to this in his statement: "[Word] problems could be an incredible instrument for testing what was learned. But they are bad instruments for teaching,".

I believe that the first purpose of word problems is not to teach the principles, but to teach problem solving using the principles. Word problems should be justified as a way to "stretch" your mental problem solving muscle, to challenge your thinking to grow, and to teach and reinforce the type of thinking beneficial in mathematics.