Angwe says: Top-posting as a warning, I’m trimming this because the whole rant is available if you want to read it by clicking here: http://reckless-recluse.tumblr.com/post/14147115245/rants-tomb-visionaryfunfactory-didnt-we-get
Didnt we get past this frame of mind in middle school when we thought we were clever asking this?
NO, this is a legitimate fucking question. Those who love math, and there are always such people—knock yourselves out. It’s your right to follow your interests.
Yes, if you are interested in higher math like calculus, then take calculus. However, I think more students need to be aware that all math is worthwhile to learn and they may have a better time in advanced statistics or any of the other advanced math classes available, some of which are going to be more personally interesting. Take what seems more intriguing to you. If you decided to take calculus, then take calculus and pay attention and learn something.
All other people—tell you a secret, unless you are attracted to math so much that you build it into your life as part of your future career, you will never run into a time, most likely, or at most very seldom, when higher math is even applicable, and even then it’s not necessary. Higher math isn’t even ABOUT the real world; it’s all mind games, puzzles for enthusiasts who can appreciate math’s majesty…which only a fraction of the population has patience, aptitude, and enough interest for.
More people than will probably realize can actually learn some advanced mathematics and get something out of it. And that bull about how it isn’t relevant in the real world, it’s just mind-games…well that’s only half-true. While advanced mathematics that you might encounter as a math major in college or graduate school and beyond is, in fact, frequently divorced from what you might consider “the real world”, the fact of the matter is that the skills you learn to solve a math problem are the same skills you use every day to think through a problem. When you have a set of tools at hand, you learn how to discern which one you want to use. This is the cornerstone of mathematics education in the primary and secondary system.
Sure, you can contrive situations that require higher math, or get into a job where it’s needed…I’d love to know what percentage of real jobs actually require employees to do so, though. But what I wanted to say is this:
There’s no practical reason to coerce all high school students to master the skills of higher math. Coercion is wrong anyway, and useless coercion is worse than just futile; it’s cruel. Some people have learning disabilities and their minds just don’t work with numbers well, yet they are forced to pass meaningless math classes for so many years. Most adults very seldom need to do much more than addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in their heads on any sort of regular or recurring basis, and calculators can swing it for us if we’re not good at numbers; computers can do this too, and they are everywhere.
Yes, but if you don’t know which of those operations you need to do, nor how to figure out what you need to do and when, you will be just as lost with a calculator or computer as you are without one. Teaching math in the secondary grades is designed to help students get a handle on how to use their toolsets. Also, bringing learning disabilities into the equation and calling this coercion misses the point of universal education, side-steps the issue of multiple advanced mathematics options, and frankly is a bit ableist. You are also ignoring the role of the teacher. While I think this teacher missed their opportunity, in the case of students who may have special needs, including both those who are having difficulties learning and those who are advanced, the teacher in the classroom can often be the one with a wide pedagogical toolset for helping make the subject accessible to the learner. That is, in fact, what a teacher is supposed to do.
Basic math is all that’s needed for getting by in the world. Beyond that is just suitable for enthusiasts or specialists. If they need to learn to think logically or some abstract task like that, let them use some other way to think logically about something that interests them. <snip>
But, I might ask, if you are only able to logically reason in situations where you are comfortable, do you not run the risk of being put at a disadvantage? As a teacher, I want to ensure that all of my students are able to use all of their critical thinking skills at any time they need to. This frequently includes situations revolving around mathematics in “the real world” and while they may have forgotten advanced calculus, I would hope that my advice on how to tackle a problem based on what you know and what you need to know would still be a basic tenet of their thought processes.
EVERYONE HAS DIFFERENT MINDS AND DIFFERENT FUTURES. THEY NEED DIFFERENT EDUCATIONS THAT FIT THEIR INCLINATIONS. Help them to excel at what they have talent at, and what they have strong interest in. That will help avoid yet another cheated generation of people who hate their jobs and by extension a big part of their lives.
Yes, everyone learns differently, and the teacher in the classroom should be doing their best, in all subjects, to help make the material accessible to the learner, but this is not an issue with mathematics alone. It is disingenuous to rail against mathematics and other “technical subjects” for being the main perpetrators of this.
HEY! Teacher! Leave those kids alone…unless you’ll be of some use to them. Teachers are usually good people, who are forced by asinine laws and regulations to waste their own and their students’ time. If a teacher is to be of value, they should instill in the kids a fervor for learning itself, and pass on their enthusiasm for it. Then we’ll have more self-starters.
And if the parents and politicians and non-school administrators would listen to teachers, they’d know this stuff already and learn that teachers want to help their students and want to have students be in classes that they like. If you don’t like calculus, don’t take calculus. But please don’t sit there and tell me that a student who chooses to enroll in a calculus class instead of advanced science, advanced statistics, advanced government, advanced anything else is being coerced. Calculus was an AP class in my high school. If you didn’t want to take it, fine, no problem.
Life is short; don’t waste it. And don’t go wasting my tax dollars by paying people to waste my kids’ time…or my neighbors’ kids. It’s a rude imposition. I pay taxes for the purpose of having the government USE the money for things that are of benefit to America. Filling the future generation’s heads with stuff that will never be of use to them is not of any benefit to anyone. Even the teachers would rather teach students who have a passion for the topic. It’s a drag teaching apathetic and struggling kids who can sense that the class is in effect only needed to fulfill requirements…like the “to” in “I like to swim.” It’s needed for grammar…a rule…not for meaning. We could get used to it without the padding.
Actually, here you’re wrong. “I like swim” leaves out the disambiguation that “to swim” allows. Without the preposition creating the infinitive, we’re not sure if you mean that you like going swimming, watching swimming, seeing the swim team, a show called “Swim”, a friend of yours nick-named “Swim”, or a bunch of other possibilities. However, “I like to swim” makes it clear that you mean that you are fond of the act of swimming, by using the accusative-infinitive you have made yourself understood. Perhaps you’d like to revisit your annoyance at all grammar rules? (That being said, some of the asinine grammar rules that some teachers are fond of are rather useless, and I blame Strunk and White for that.)
The teacher in this anecdote … <snip!>
I completely agree that there is teacher-fail here, no question. I think, however, that you are drawing incorrect general conclusions from one person’s failure.
Sorry if you disagree about the math. I don’t mean math is bad; it’s just a specialized interest that few need to become good at. Those who use it know it; those who don’t use it don’t need it and don’t need to learn it.
I don’t think you mean math is bad, but I think you need to reevaluate your position on advanced mathematics education. Yes, telling all students to take calculus is stupid. Take calculus if it seems interesting to you. Take stats if that looks more interesting. (I actually wish I’d been able to take both in high school.) But please, please stop blaming the whole education system, and taking it out particularly on teachers, when you cannot see that the point of teaching any mathematics above algebra (which, as Richard Feynman will even tell you, is all anyone really needs to get by in the world) is to allow students to be able to develop the ability to utilize their critical thinking skills to tackle problems in the best way they know how.