El Coyote Gordo (supergee) wrote,
El Coyote Gordo

The New New Math

I am old enough to remember the New Criticism and the New Math. In fact, I grew up with the New Math, because my father was one of its perpetrators. The Old Math was endless repetitions of such tasks as adding columns of figures. But then the field was invaded by a bunch of weirdos who read Buck Rodgers stuff that told them of a bizarre future where arithmetic could be done better and faster by small, inexpensive machines. (My father was guilty as charged; that where I get it from.)

The catch was that while the Old Math could be taught by dull normals to dull normals, the New Math required the teachers to understand what they were teaching and many didn’t. We would hear that we have to learn arithmetic with bases other than 10 because that’s what computers use. (A similar fate befell reading, where bad teaching of the see-say method told many that English, like Chinese, has no smaller units than the word.)

As the postmodernists say, that was now, and this is then. There is a New New Math, with new ways to teach it badly, and of course the current fantasy that teaching can be successfully evaluated by objective tests is making it worse.

Thanx to [personal profile] conuly
Tags: math

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