Friday, September 23, 2011

The satellite is falling! The satellite is falling!

I'm curious--are other science teachers noticing a dearth of numeracy?

While we struggle to get enough of our lambs to wiggle through algebra algorithms to pass the state exam,  fewer children "feel" numbers. Numbers may not be warm and fuzzy, but each one has a certain, um, heft, to it. Solving quadratic equations may impress the senators, but failing to recognize simple arithmetic relations pose a much bigger threat to our republic than a lack of algebraic fluency.

Innumeracy will kill democracy long before illiteracy can.

Dedicated to every child who loses sleep tonight over UARS, a satellite raining down on us tonight.
Woodcut by Gregor Reisch: "Madame Arithmeticae," 1508


David Rudel said...

I was rather surprised to hear how imprecisely NASA scientists had been able to calculate the trajectory of the bus-sized bullet.

John T. Spencer said...

We are now finding ways to "test" number sense with multiple choice exams.

Joel began to understand the nature of numbers with counting. Sometimes it was money. Other times it was rocks. Sometimes it was more abstract (how many ways can I get to twenty).

I don't know what a Quadratic Formula is for. I never did. I don't know how it connects to life. All I know is that I tried to FOIL when it wasn't a two-by-two polynomial and figured out that all I had done was learn a trick. I felt like a trained monkey.

Yesterday I heard a comparison between Greece's debt 50 billion or so and America's debt. I realize that it was on the radio, so you can't do the zeroes. But it made it sound like our debt is similar when, in fact, it very different. No one talked about the difference between the numbers or the size of both countries.

It's a social phenomenon.

David Rudel said...

John, you might like to know that one of the standing rules at is that there will NEVER be a Gizmo on FOIL ;)