Math, of course, is interesting for its own sake. I think of it as one of the humanities, though I realize that it is usually thought of as one of the sciences. In any case, math is definitely a crucial tool for technology, engineering, and science.
For a few decades now, science has been under attack from industry-funded "merchants of doubt". Their strategy has been to challenge well-known, widely-accepted, and abundantly replicated scientific results with the bogus claim that "the jury is still out". They have worked for the tobacco industry, for polluters, and for the fossil fuel industries. The media have unfortunately been gullible and/or complicit, and spread their message far and wide. One embarrassing and terrifying consequence is that, for example, the United States is the only country in the world where people think the research on climate change is inconclusive.
We are now seeing the catastrophic implications of this. Trump's team is bent on reversing the already insufficient environmental protections that had been put in place by previous administrations. If they succeed, it will be a terrible blow to public health, and will have disastrous consequences for the planet. Moreover, they are planning to reduce the funding of federally-supported research on science, health, and the environment at a time when we need it more than ever.
In other words, this is a crisis. It is the reason why I am including a political call to action in a math education newsletter. (Don't worry, I'll soon get back to the math.)
I am planning to join other math people at the San Francisco March for Science on April 22, and again at the People's Climate Movement March in Oakland on April 29. If you can, go to DC (Science | Climate.) If not, find a local march and join it (Science | Climate).
And don't stop there! What can we do as math teachers? Can we develop curriculum ideas in defense of science, public health, and the environment? What can we do as citizens? The resistance possibilities are many, and resistance is definitely not futile. Citizen action has already helped to stop some of the worst initiatives emanating from the White House. If each of us finds a way to get involved we can help prevent the worst, and even push things forward.
Meanwhile, let's go back to my regular newsletter.
Here are links to posts on my Math Education Blog that you might find interesting.
If you are so moved, you may comment on the posts, and/or subscribe to the blog.
One of the most common debates in math education is about whether calculator use undermines student learning. My view is that the existence of calculators undermines students' motivation to learn multidigit paper-pencil algorithms: students know that this is no longer a real-world skill. Instead of wasting precious school time on trying to turn children into poor imitations of a free app, we'd be better off teaching them estimation and mental calculation skills. Read my discussion of this here.
Geoboard Problems for Teachers
If you are familiar with my work as a curriculum developer, you have probably seen my geoboard activities, which are useful to teach a wide range of topics: slope, area, distance, the Pythagorean theorem, and more. These activities are indexed here, along with links to articles for teachers and blog posts about interesting enrichment problems. I tell about my latest explorations in that genre in a recent post based on a Math Teachers Circle session about Geoboard Problems for Teachers. Check it out!
I Was the Worst Student in the Class
Back in 2009-2010, I took a year off from teaching, and seized the opportunity to try doing other things. The hardest thing I attempted, by far, was a rigorous physical training mostly intended for professional actors. As the worst student in the class, I learned some things about teaching, which I recounted in this blog post.
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(See also my summer workshops, below.)