Friday, February 12, 2010

But trust us… We’re the experts (another Discovery)

Mike speaks out on discovery.

“…but what about the "validity" that teaching procedural computation hinders student's conceptual understanding.”

We’ve heard that one for years, but I’ve never seen credible research to back it up. The fuzzies claim that teaching the standards algorithm impedes conceptual understanding because it impedes the student’s conceptual understanding of place value. Poppy-cock. That’s like saying that teaching someone to drive a car impedes their conceptual understanding of the workings of an internal combustion engine. Or, that teaching someone to tune a radio impedes their conceptual understanding of the differentiation between amplitude modulation and frequency modulation. The formers are tools of manipulation that work; the latter are concepts. Successful & expedient tools of manipulation are building blocks towards the acquisition of the critical mass of domain knowledge required to begin to achieve conceptual understanding. Requiring students to achieve conceptual understanding first, and then invent their own tools of manipulation, is a roadmap to the stone-age.

“Ok now kids… instead of teaching you how to drive a car, we are going to introduce you to the concept of the internal combustion engine. Then later, when you’re at home with your parents and your substandard curriculum, you must master this concept on your own. Then, armed with your new-found conceptual understanding of the internal combustion engine, you will design & build your own automobile. Through this process, you will miraculously learn to drive on your own, making your achievement more relevant to you. I know this would seem to defy logic, but trust us… we’re the experts.”

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