nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,
nancylebov
nancylebov

I'm trying not to reflexively believe the worst

So tell me, do the following quotes resemble your early math education? I don't remember enough about mine to say, but I think I picked up what I know about pi being irrational outside of school. I remember being taught more memorization than understanding, but no actual nonsense.

If you answer with specific memories, could you let me know when and where you went to school and whether the school seemed to be adequately financed?

It's suburbs of Wilmington, Delaware for me, and I went to first grade in 1959. I went to well-enough financed public schools.

An article about why it's better not to teach arithmetic till sixth grade, with evidence that elementary school teachers (even in good schools) don't know that you use multiplication to find the area of a rectangle.

From the comments
Some years ago, my (now ex-) wife was involved in a "trivia night" fundraiser at her elementary school, and they wanted me on their "teacher team" to round out their knowledge. They had almost everything covered except some technology-related topics and I was an IT guy. In round four, my moment to shine arrived, as the category was "Math & Science" and one of the questions was, "give the first five digits of pi." I quickly said, "3.1415." The 9 teachers at the table ignored me and wrote down "22/7" on scrap paper and began to divide it out. I observed this quietly at first, assuming that 22/7ths gave the right answer for the first 5 digits, but it doesn't. It gives something like 3.1427. I said, "Whoops, that won't work." They ignored me and consulted among themselves, concluding that they had all done the division properly on 22/7ths out to five digits. I said, "That's not right, it's 3.1415."

They shot me insolent looks and one said, "We're math teachers. This is what the book says and this is what we're teaching the students." I said, "The TEXTBOOK in school says that?" "Yes, it does." I thought, "No wonder we graduate generations of ignorant boobs, the book is wrong." But the more I thought about it, the more I found it unlikely that the book contained this error. They wrote down "3.1427" or whatever on our answer sheet and I doggedly insisted that their answer was wrong. I explained that pi was equal to the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, and after an uncertain pause, one of the teachers summoned this fact from her vague recollection of her lesson plan: "Pi is an irrational number, so it can't be a ratio." The other teachers at the table exchanged knowing glances and murmured with approval with that "A-ha! Gotcha!" look on their faces, as they recalled that same fact and found their colleague's logic unimpeachable.


Second link thanks to Less Wrong.
Tags: arithmetic, education
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