Tag Archives: High school

December 22, 2010, 12:00 pm

Misunderstanding mathematics

Plots of quadratic equations with discriminant...

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Robert Lewis, a professor at Fordham University, has published this essay entitled “Mathematics: The Most Misunderstood Subject”. The source of the general public’s misunderstandings of math, he writes, is:

…the notion that mathematics is about formulas and cranking out computations. It is the unconsciously held delusion that mathematics is a set of rules and formulas that have been worked out by God knows who for God knows why, and the student’s duty is to memorize all this stuff. Such students seem to feel that sometime in the future their boss will walk into the office and demand “Quick, what’s the quadratic formula?” Or, “Hurry, I need to know the derivative of 3x^2 – 6x +1.” There are no such employers.

Prof. Lewis goes on to describe some ways in which this central misconception is worked…

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June 4, 2010, 8:54 am

Plagiarism in high school

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About two dozen seniors at Hamilton Southeastern High School in the affluent northern suburbs of Indianapolis have been caught plagiarizing in a dual-enrollment college course, thanks to turnitin.com. Full story with video here, and there’s an official statement from the HSE superintendent on this issue here (.DOC, 20KB).

This would be an ordinary, though disappointing, story about students getting caught cheating if it weren’t for some head-scratchers here. First, this bit from the superintendent’s statement:

We took immediate action because the end of the school year was rapidly approaching. Several students were in danger of not graduating on time. We found a teacher who was willing to step up and administer a complete but highly accelerated online version of a class that would replace the credit that was lost due to cheating. Each student who wishes to graduate…

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March 17, 2010, 8:26 pm

You can't become an expert in college

Cover of "Outliers: The Story of Success&...

Cover of Outliers: The Story of Success

Here’s something of an epiphany I had at the ICTCM while listening to Dave Pritchard‘s keynote, which had a lot to do with the differences between novice and expert behaviors in problem-solving.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, puts forth a now-famous theory that it takes at least 10,000 hours to become a true expert in a particular area, at the top of one’s game in a particular pursuit. That’s 10,000 hours of concentrated work in studying, practicing, and performing in some particular area. When we talk about “expert behavior”, we mean the kinds of behaviors that people who have put in their 10,000 hours exercise as second nature.

Clearly high school or college students who are in an introductory course — even Dave Pritchard’s physics students at MIT, who are likely…

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July 25, 2008, 2:36 pm

Geometry first

Jackie at Continuities is wondering whether the usual path through high school mathematics — Algebra I, then Geometry, then Algebra II, etc. — is out of order, and whether geometry ought to come first:

As far as I can tell the only difference between Alg II and Pre-Calc is that trig is taught during Pre-Calc and Pre-Calc introduces the concept of the limit. Functions are developed a bit more rigorously too.

The first semester of Algebra II is mostly a repeat of Algebra I as they’ve forgotten it with the year “off” during Geometry.

Why not then teach Geometry first? I’m talking about plane and solid geometry with an emphasis on reasoning, and right angle trig. Obviously there would need to be some supplementing needed (work with radicals, solving equations). Most students have “seen” the solving of equations in 8th grade (Have they mastered it? No, of course not).

I…

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November 18, 2007, 10:34 am

Valedictorians by the wayside?

School districts in Boulder, Colorado will no longer be awarding valedictorian status to their top high school graduates, starting in 2010:

The district’s high schools used grade-point averages to determine the honor, but the top students were sometimes separated by just hundredths of a grade point, leading to complaints. Officials also worried students were focusing on heavyweight academic classes at the expense of arts and other electives.

Let that sink in: They’re worried that students are focusing too much on academic courses.

“We have a responsibility and a goal of educating the whole child and not just coming up with this race for tenths of a percentage,” said school board President Helayne Jones. “High school is supposed to be a time to try things out.”

Boulder Valley had previously abolished class rankings to reduce “unhealthy competition,” and the committee said keeping the…

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October 18, 2007, 7:09 pm

Dual enrollment in the blogosphere

The other day I linked to this article on dual enrollment and briefly explained why I support dual enrollment programs. It turns out that there’s at least one blog entirely devoted to dual enrollment. The name — “Concrurrent Enrollment” — isn’t very catchy, but the content seems good (and that’s better than the other way around). High school students who are dually enrolled, or thinking about it, and their parents might find it worthwhile to check out. There’s quite a bit of controversy and/or politics involved and it’s often not as easy as it could be.