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What do you think about the teaching of maths at different levels of education? How do you think it could be improved not to be so feared?

It is an open place to talk about how everyone thinks math teaching could be improved to be closer to students. Thanks!

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  • Mar 16 2011: I'm glad that this topic is being discussed. As someone who has been extremely passionate about mathematics, done a significant amount of tutoring, and taken a large amount of mathematics, I've definitely developed an opinion on this subject. I have two main qualms with the current state of mathematics.

    One of the largest problems I see with math today is that on first glance the overwhelming majority of it seems useless to most students. Math is taught in a very strange way and I think that turns off a lot of students. The strange manner in which math is taught is that it is largely separated from its useful applications. Math by itself means nothing, it only has value when it is applied to the incredible number of fields that it can advance, be it physics, chemistry, confirming originality of art or literature, improving the economy, or countless other areas. It is, in my opinion, not worthwhile to have students simply do calculation after calculation, completely out of context of its application.

    My second problem with mathematics is that it is geared toward calculus and not statistics. Calculus is an extremely powerful tool for students who need it in the future, but for the rest it is something that will quickly be forgotten. Statistics on the other hand is something that is extremely useful for all students. Statistics can teach us how to analyze a situation and make the best decision. Statistics can show students the probability of a payoff, or their chance of success in a certain area. It seems that the last 2-3 years of most high school curricula are focused on teaching students calculus, rather than statistics which I feel has better appeal and application.

    So in conclusion my vision for mathematics is passionate teachers who educate students on relevant material in a manner that students can actually relate to.
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      Mar 16 2011: I really hate stats (or at least the way it has been taught to me), although I adore math in general.

      I am an idealistic math kind of person. I believe that mathematics is not only beautiful and an art, but also crucial as part of the human development. I'm thinking about Pythagoras, Pascal and others.

      I truly believe we need to stop seeing mathematics as a necessary evil and work towards seeing it more like an art. Like a game... because it is. And of course the usefulness can come into place. Calculus is just so much more interesting ;)
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      Mar 17 2011: To say that math by itself means nothing and math only has value in application, you might as well say that art means nothing.

      Also, it would be hard to gear math toward stats instead of calculus, since many areas of stats are built on calculus. I teach a college stats class for students majoring in fields that use stats far more than calculus, i.e. journalism and sociology. There is no way to have the students reach a true understanding of the normal distribution without going deep into calculus. The alternative is to give the students a z-table and say, "Just take it on faith that this works." That is a fundamentally flawed approach to education, regardless of the subject being taught.
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      Mar 17 2011: YES to statisitics!

      * The way to learn to think in probabilities
      * One of the best tools for scientific research
      * It can reduce a lot of numbers to a very small amount of understandable and meaningful numbers
      * It is the key to understanding and programming AI
      * You can learn to beat people in poker
      * It shows a lot of cognitive biases you have as a human
      * TED loves statisticians! (or that is what I like to believe)
      * It can be thought in a very visual and intuitive level.

      (ok, maybe i'm of topic,...)

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