“Why Singapore’s kids are so good at maths” – and the US Isn’t

Source: Why Singapore’s kids are so good at maths

Here is a highlighted quote from the article.

Mathematics in Singapore is not about knowing everything. It’s about thinking like a mathematician

Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD’s education assessment programme

Here is my comment.
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When I taught an important math course at the “elite” Washington Univ. in St. Louis, the Math Chair told me to teach it as a “cookbook” course. He later laughed heartily and said,

“If I wanted to impart more mathematical understanding, this would not be the course that I would pick.”

Why did he want it taught that way? You might want to guess from the following.

When I wrote an Eng. Dean (It was a course mainly for engineers.) that

“..[students] who seem to be doing the HW had a median of an A– on the second test, and those who appear not to be doing the HW had a median of D–” and that about a third of the students had cheated on homework, he responded that

“..The math and science courses are crucial for student retention in engineering. It pains us to see students give up engineering due to lack of confidence in math and science.”

At the end of the semester, the Math Chair told me,

““I have promised the Dean that we would give the same grades as usual…I’m getting enough flack to not want you to teach the course again…The Dean of Engineering came to talk to me..”

“Face it, Engineering is always a problem.  We just wrested [a course] from
them, which we teach better, and we don’t want to have to give up Dif. Eqns.”

So, see, in the U.S. math courses (and other courses) seem to be about something different that “…thinking like a mathematician…”

You can read more on my blog inside-higher-ed . Look for the article “A Tale Out of School”.

Finally, here is a comment from a student. “I..learned a good deal…, but more importantly, I found that my problem-solving and analytical math skills were greatly enhanced by this class…” No amount of pressure to deprive those young people of that experience was going to stop me.

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