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Friday math movie - Math education, a university view

By Murray Bourne, 14 Dec 2007

Mathematics lecturers are always complaining about the math abilities of their students.

This video is by Prof Cliff Mass from University of Washington.

Mass complains about the fact that he needed to "dumb down" his atmospheric sciences course because of the poor level of his students.

There is a trend where foreigners (Chinese?) are gaining entry to his courses because of their superior math abilties.

He rails against the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' "fuzzy math" approach. I have a problem with his criticism of the 'discovery approach' to mathematics. Designed properly and mixed with didactic approaches, the discovery method (or a problem-based approach) can be an effective way of getting students to see the point of the mathematics they are learning.

He also criticises the use of calculators rather than using 'long division'. Hmmm - these are not absolutes. There are many times when it is insane to use a paper-based long division (but I'm not saying it should be thrown out altogether.)

However, I agree with most of what he says.

Anyway, I'll let Prof Mass say his bit.

Reactions, anyone?

Update: The video comes from, whose mission is:

To ensure that all Washington State students have an equal opportunity to compete successfully in the international economy by aligning Washington State standards, assessments and curricula to those of top performing nations in the world.

Sounds good to me.

See the 8 Comments below.

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