Saturday, February 03, 2007

Understanding the Math Wars, Implications for Science

In the American Journal of Physics-- a journal for which most of the publications are physics professors sharing interesting problems/labs/ideas, but also some interesting physics education research-- the following editorial was published this month:

School math books, nonsense, and the National Science Foundation

The editorial itself isn't too surprising; it's the kind of editorial that shows up in newspapers and websites when mathematics education reform curriculum is introduced. And it's from a vocal critic of those reforms. What is surprising is that the AJP decided to publish it, with all of its ranting rhetoric.

Some history on the Math Wars is necessary for understanding how to interpret Klein's editorial.

I think science education has different concerns: for one, most parents have less expectations about what students should learn in science than they do for math, are less likely to think they use traditional science content every day, and so are less likely to be vocal opponents to reform curricula. Also, people have an image of scientist as a doer of experiments; a mathematician (perhaps?) they think of as a knower of math. (Actually, I wonder what most people think that mathematics professors do all day?) So science-as-activity is easier to pull off.

But it is concerning that this shows up in the AJP. I composed an editorial in response. (Tried attaching it to no avail. I'll try again later.) We'll see if it gets published.


pabaker55 said...

A recent article from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research discusses reform math curricula and the math wars: 'Algebra Instruction, Then and Now'

Michael said...

This is disturbing. Why is it that ``educators'' seem to do their level best to make sure we graduate kids with no math, science, or reading skills?