Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Math in the Media - Jump Math

A neat article appears in the Opinionator column of the New York Times by David Bornstein;

The article details a new attitude and focus in the education of mathematics at the primary school level. The organization, Jump Math, is based in England and is the project of John Mighton, a playwright and author, and seems to already be showing results.

Really, it sounds like Jump Math (as I write this, the link above to the organization is down) is not a new set of concepts to teach. Rather, it is simply an idea that the best way to teach mathematics (at any level) is to instill the idea that high level math is not just for those who have "the ability" to get it, but for everyone. Many of us who teach math really do understand that anyone can understand high level math. The problem is that many students have already concluded that they are not able to get math, so they do not have the confidence to really try to understand what is going on. Couple that with a sense that many teachers of mathematics do not really get the art and beauty of mathematics. So they teach a technique-based, problem-centric type of math that loses the deeper meaning. Without proper motivation, much mathematics loses its context, and hence much of its meaning.

From the article:
Imagine if someone at a dinner party casually announced, “I’m illiterate.” It would never happen, of course; the shame would be too great. But it’s not unusual to hear a successful adult say, “I can’t do math.” That’s because we think of math ability as something we’re born with, as if there’s a “math gene” that you either inherit or you don’t.
I have heard this ALOT, and my response is always something like "probably because you were taught by people who didn't get it. Anyone can do math...."

The article is nicely written, and quite pleasing to hear for someone like me. I will be probing this new set of ideas called Jump Math over the near future and report my finding here. To me, at least on the surface, something like this is exactly what I think pre-university teaching of mathematics needs.

The article promises more at the end of the week. We will await the continuance. For now, a good ending quote:
"Even deeper, for children, math looms large; there’s something about doing well in math that makes kids feel they are smart in everything. In that sense, math can be a powerful tool to promote social justice."
One has to love quotes like that....

No comments: