Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Open Minded Mathematics

I came across this quote this morning:

“You know, we don’t grow most of the food we eat. We wear clothes other people make. We speak a language that other people developed. We use a mathematics that other people evolved… I mean, we’re constantly taking things. It’s a wonderful, ecstatic feeling to create something that puts it back in the pool of human experience and knowledge.” --Steve Jobs

It got me thinking about math. Of course, what else occupies my mind these days? Anyway, I was wondering what some people find so offensive about looking toward other countries for examples of successful math curricula. Other countries like Singapore or Japan, for example. I'm not saying that our history, experiences, culture and social values don't differ. I'm not saying that Singapore and Japan aren't small homogeneous countries as compared to our very large and diverse one. But we didn't invent math in this country and I'm not certain that we need to throw away what we already know, what others have found out along the way, or what is being done around the globe today that is actually working. Are we so vain as to think that anything of value must come from the USA and that to look outside our borders is somehow unpatriotic and wrong?

I find it interesting that certain educators and adminstrator's take this concept of looking towards Singapore's math curriculum, or any other country's curricula so offensive. Offensive is a strong word, but the bickering that goes on between well educated people who should know better is little more than that. In fact, they can get so caught up in the rhetoric that they forget that ultimately we really share the same objectives. Or, at least we should share the same objectives. We want to find the best possible way to prepare our children for the future. I think we would all agree that math is an integral part of that equation.

What I am saying is that we are all human, and we want what's best for our children. We want to prepare them for the future, and we want them to go out and do something productive and useful with their lives. What is so wrong with looking at another country's proven track record of success in math and asking what they are doing that is working so well? How can we make that work for our children? How can we add our own spin to it? How can we make it even better? How can we "put [something] back into the pool of human experience and knowledge"? Why do we need to reinvent the wheel? National Pride? Ego? Hubris?

If we're going to find our way out of global warming, make the world a safer place, secure the future of our country in the global economy, and find the cure for cancer we are going to have to open our minds. We are going to have to stop thinking that we're the only ones who know what we're doing. We're going to have to teach our children this important lesson too. I want my children to be inspired, to be motivated, to be driven. I want them to learn to collaborate, to share, and to spread their wings and soar.

1 comment:

ConcernedCTparent said...

For clarification, we supplement our public school's choice of curriculum, Everyday Mathematics, with material from Japan and Singapore. This will have to work for us until we find a better way.