Friday, January 21, 2005

Teaching the Future

As I may have mentioned before, one of the sections I teach is Math for Elementary Education. Anyone who is arguing about the best way for elementary school teachers to teach math should talk to my students: a very large fraction of them can't do elememtary-level math. Don't think that it's just this section of my students this semester; this is a systemic problem.

Most of my students are undergraduates who plan on becoming elementary school teachers. I struggle with this class: what I'm supposed to be doing is teaching my students the why behind the math, explaining how the algorithms work and proving things that are normally just stated in school mathematics. About half of them want no part of this. For these students, their goal is to learn the material at the level at which their future students will be asked to perform. They tell me which grade they think they're going to be teaching, and explain that they don't need to know the material past that level.

So I've made copies of an article from the Notices, Racial Equity Requires Teaching Elementary School Teachers More Mathematics (here's a link to the table of contents of that issue -- it links to the pdf of the article), and I'm going to hand it out in class today. We'll see what sort of discussion we get on Monday. (Which, of course, will depend on whether or not they read it!)