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How to Teach Classroom Mathematics
A few years ago, I was appointed head of the pre-entry science course department at Balgravia Technical University. The Department enrolled the best students from different high schools in the country. The aim of the Department was to find the gaps of the students in their knowledge of science subjects and bring them up to university standards. It was a pleasure to work in an exotic country on such difficult issues and for such a noble goal.
Once, as I was passing a classroom where mathematics was being taught by a colleague, I heard the voices of the students counting: 4597, 4598, 4599… At that moment, I didn’t didn’t pay much attention to it. But after three days, behind the doors of the same class, I heard: 13,127, 13,128, 13,129…
“My friend,” I asked MS soon after in the hallway, “what’s going on in the classroom during your maths lessons?”
“Well, my students count to a million,” he replied.
“Hmm,” I mumbled and walked away.
Then, on the stairs, I understood the meaning of his words. I went to my office. Looking at my wristwatch, I counted to one hundred. I took a calculator. I calculated that in 50 minutes they will count up to 5,000, in a week (5 lessons) up to 25,000, and by the end of the school year they will not even reach 800,000 due to the holidays and the fact that the numbers were getting longer!
I summoned MS. “Do you realize what you’re doing with your counting?”
“It’s a modern way to introduce a certain concept. First, I make my students aware of the importance of the number of millions. Second, we have a great satisfaction to be the first. I believe that , so far, no one has counted to a million! Today’s world rewards those who are the first in anything!
I expect the class to be in the “Guinness Book of Records” and third, I test if the students can count to a million! The statement: “I can count to a million” has no value until it is proven experimentally, that is, by the process of actual counting”.
I got angry. “Enough is enough!” I screamed. “I command you to teach according to the syllabus!”
The next day, stealthily, I approached his class. The students recited: 17,999, 18,000, 18,001… I decided to fire MS. Quietly, I let my superiors know that MS was probably crazy. The message has been broadcast. The university community decided that I was against the introduction of modern teaching methods, that I did not understand outcome-based education, and that I felt personal animosity towards our colleague. My two-year contract expired and was not renewed…I left university.
After a month, I came back to the department to visit my friend, the English tutor.
Of all the classes where math lessons were taught (not just
Mr. S.’s classroom), I heard the students’ voices counting:
277 238, 277 239, 277 240…
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