Hands Off the Hands-On in School Math??

27 04 2008

Okay, I’m not explaining, just reporting this:

Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues Vladimir M. Sloutsky and Andrew F. Heckler did something relatively rare in education research: they performed a randomized, controlled experiment. Their results appear in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

Though the experiment tested college students, the researchers suggested that their findings might also be true for math education in elementary through high school, the subject of decades of debates about the best teaching methods.

Rapt regular readers will recall that in all those decades of debates or touted teaching tracks, nothing ever made math manipulable for Favorite Daughter.

Probably this kind of “randomized, controlled experiment” in math education won’t help any individual learn math better, since it is geared to the institutional classroom and switching to a new standard rather than switching out of standard mode in the first place. At best this kind of “science” about math education then, will just illuminate better ways to manipulate the subjective minds of the generalizable aggregate to meet the objective standards of the generalizable aggregate. I can’t glean much from it for helping my own two unschooling children compete in schoolish math and science standards step-dancing, but that was never our educational focus anyway.

So it rivets me not as unschooling mom but as former education policy pro and Lifelong Thinking Citizen, to notice this as a way I can learn more about how we the American people obsess over — and subsequently overvalue — school math instruction and test performance, as a scientifically defensible merit ranking mechanism equally applicable between individual children, classrooms, schools, cities, states and countries across the globe. Read the rest of this entry »