Tuesday, October 04, 2005

1/2 Forward, Two Steps Backwards.

(Jump to comments.)
I recently had the [dis]pleasure of finding this article entitled "Math Made Easy..." and I have to say, it is sad. Some well-meaning researchers performed an experiment to test the innate math skills of 5-year olds.

What they did is present them not with numbers, buth with dots on a screen and bleeps from the speaker to correspond to red or blue dots. The article perports that since the children were able to tell that a combination of 17 and 13 blue dots is less than a picture of 50 dots, they were demonstrating an innate understanding of associative additive property. I am skeptical. The children are comparing general size and area as qualitative instead of quantitative properties of the dots.  That is not math skill.

Next, they had children get accustomed to a group of blue dots on the screen. Then they listened to a series of beeps and were able to recognize the # of beeps corresponded to the # of red dots on the screen instead of the blue. Again, I am not impressed. All they would have to do to tell is for every beep, count a dot. They already understand that the beeps represent one of the dot types. All that is needed in terms of logic is to understand if that if they ran out of blue dots before the beeping stopped or the beeping stopped before they ran out of blue dots, then the beeping would automatically correspond to the red dots, and vice versa. This is not only primitive logic, it just is not math. Not really.

So what have they done? They have done nothing in this article but provide parents and children with emotional support. If they kids feel better they do better, right? Of course, the answer is no. This is just one of many attempts to appease parents rather than properly educate children. I am not saying that current math education in America is fine as it is -- it really isn't -- I am just saying that this experiment and its results is bullshit.    

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