Your Daily Wu: Teachers and Math Educators II

wu (again) on teachers and mathematics educators (present company presumably included)

Because the flawed [mathematics] they [preservice teachers] learned as K-12 students is not exposed, much less corrected, they unwittingly inflict [this flawed mathematics] on their own students when they become teachers. So it comes to pass that [this flawed mathematics] is recycled in K—12 from generation to generation. Today, this vicious cycle is so well ingrained that many current and future mathematics educators also are victimized by [this flawed mathematics], and their vision of K—12 mathematics is impaired.

what i think he’s saying

We cannot entrust decisions about mathematics content in curriculum to anyone but mathematicians because everyone else misunderstands what mathematics is (but it’s not their fault as individuals-forgive them for they know not what they do.)

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2 responses to “Your Daily Wu: Teachers and Math Educators II

  1. I’m noticing word choice: expose, flawed, inflict, vicious, victimized, impaired. The implicit metaphor is very emotionally charged: Teaching mathematics (in its current for) constitutes physical abuse.

    I hope there is more attention to argument in the rest of the writing, not just charged rhetoric. The rhetoric here can be very off-putting. It says, “Teachers, you are unintentionally abusing your children. You are doing this and don’t even know it, because you were once abused yourself. This history of abuse makes you blind to the truth of mathematics and to the abuse you continue to carry out. Let me show you the way.”

    There is an odd resemblance to notions of original sin and how sinners should trust themselves in the lord. Beyond substance, the rhetorical style also seems slightly geared toward being prophetic with phrases like, “So it comes to pass”.

  2. Yeah. I think this is what makes it so hard for me to engage with Wu’s ideas. As in much evangelical rhetoric, there is no nuance, no subtlety, no acknowledging when we are discussing facts and when we are speculating. I know that this is part of the culture in mathematics. We strongly state our ideas with certainty, and then we put them out there for the community to disprove.

    But transferring that rhetorical style to the field of teaching and learning is problematic. Wu rejects out of hand pretty much all educational research (see next week, Wu on fractions), so what’s left to discuss? Educational theories are not the same as mathematical theorems; they are more like scientific theories-never perfect, always testable and we assume they will be refined as more evidence is brought to the table.

    So take the style of mathematical certainty, remove all means for testing the truth of the claims, and you pretty much are left with dogma. Wu is right to critique educators for having untestable theories, but to reject (as we’ll see next week that he does) the idea that there are multiple ways of thinking about fractions by appealing only to the formalities of Modern Algebra? Come on.

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