Saturday, September 14, 2013

Math in the News: Giving Students More Independence

About a month ago, I was speaking at a TEDx conference that was themed around education. During these TEDx conferences, there are always live speakers as well as videos chosen by the organizers that fit well with the occasion. One of the videos we watched really got us thinking. Here it is:

This talk is not directly mathematical. It isn't meant to be a math education talk. But, these points apply to math education as well.

For example, the mathematician Euclid had nothing. He pretty much was starting from scratch, just like the kids described in the talk. So what did he do? Well, after creating five axioms (foundational ideas that can be concluded with basic logic), he started asking questions, and answering them with mathematical proofs. He would then think about other questions, and find ways to answer them using everything he had discovered. This was the basis of his book series called Elements.

Students should be able to approach math in a similar way. A teacher could lay out five axioms (or develop them with the students), and then back off. He or she might also provide terminology (line, triangle, square, circle, angle, bisect, trisect, etc.), but the students can discover the rest. By learning math this way, they will understand everything they are doing so much better because they created it. For more on that topic, check out my Capstone Research Paper (link is on the top of the page), and scroll to "Chronological Cognition."

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