What’s Wrong with the World

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Education Archives

October 29, 2013

Competence and knowledge vs. "understanding"

One of my Facebook acquaintances, I don't remember who, recently put up a link to this video.

I would like to think that all of my readers are men of sense and will see that this bright child is being educationally tormented by being taught a faddish baloney way of doing what should be simple addition. And by the way, it's universally acknowledged that the children are counted wrong if they don't use these new-new-math methods, even if they get the answer right. Sweet. The mother is to be praised for bringing it to the attention of the world at large. It's also good that she taught her daughter the so-called "standard algorithm," aka normal addition, which will actually allow her to extrapolate the concepts of addition to numbers of any size she encounters. Now the mother needs to take the next step and get her child the dickens out of a school system that is trying so hard to mis-educate her.

The video makes an excellent point at the end, to wit, that the curriculum in question deliberately does not teach children to work with numbers larger than the thousands' place because the "array" method is so cumbersome that it cannot be applied to such numbers. Of course it can't. If you're already using a three-dimensional cube drawing to represent the thousands' place, what are you going to make the poor child draw for the ten thousands'? N-dimensional shapes? I shudder to think what they'll try to do to teach decimals... Hence, as the video points out, children taught in this way actually get the misconception (so much for "conceptual understanding") that addition problems using larger numbers are essentially more difficult to solve than those using smaller numbers. Congratulations, "professional educators." You've just ditched one of the the great beauties and virtues of the Arabic numeral system--its ability to be easily extrapolated, both in representation and in manipulation. Maybe you should just go back to using Roman numerals now.

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