Monday, May 15, 2006

Teaching the Teachers

I've been pulling together all of my materials for the Math for Elementary Ed course because we've found another new person to teach it. There's a lot of turnover in that course; many of us have sworn that we will never teach it again. The only person who both enjoyed teaching the class and did well with it got hired away to a much better job. We've been struggling to replace her.

All of the official course materials pretend that this course covers an introduction to set theory, a little bit of number theory, basic probability (with combinatorics mixed in), the essentials of statistics, and some geometry. There is much talk of higher order thinking skills, of justifications, of proofs. The textbook supports this view. The course number is roughly comparable to that of multivariable calculus or linear algebra.

Unfortunately, the students who enroll in this course seem to have, at best, a middle school knowledge of math. They don't see the value of being able to understand the math that they're going to be expected to teach. Little do they know, if they end up in a district with a highly reformed curriculum, they might not even be able to DO the math that they're expected to teach.

We've recently discovered that someone we know with a masters in math is going back to grad school in math education, and we have talked her into teaching this course. I'm hoping that she can convince the students that it is important for them to be able to do and understand elementary math. I don't mean to overwhelm her with my optimism and enthusiasm, but I am ready to shower her with CDs full of electronic resources, a collection of textbooks, and a rolling cart full of manipulatives. Her mailbox is full, and I'm resisting the urge to pile on more.