Things Take as Long as They Take

My friend Darryl has been a meditation teacher for about ten years (besides being a medical doctor), and he told me a lovely story recently. A version of this story follows, which I have copied from here: A Buddhist monk approached his teacher and asked the Zen Master, “If I meditate very diligently, how long … Read more

“A Lesson in Teaching to the Test, From E.B. White,” by Anne Stone and Jeff Nichols

Anne Stone and Jeff Nichols beautifully make the case against standardized testing at the New York Times SchoolBook blog (hat-tip to Susan Ohanian). Here is an excerpt: In light of current controversies around testing and teacher evaluation, let’s do a little thought experiment. How would Miss Snug have handled this lesson if it were occurring … Read more

“Student Learning Can Only Be Described, Not Measured,” by Rog Lucido

Rog Lucido has written an interesting article against standardized testing, and suggesting better alternatives. (Hat-tip to Susan Ohanian.) He argues that the numerical aggregation of final test scores is not valid and therefore not meaningful, and that subjective assessments together with verbal descriptions are meaningful and valid. (This post first appeared at my other (now … Read more

“No Student Left Untested,” by Diane Ravitch

Measuring teacher effectiveness by the performance of students on standardized tests is insane. New York State has just signed on to a particularly dangerous form of this insanity. Diane Ravitch has clearly explained the insanity and its destructive consequences in No Student Left Untested, in the New York Review of Books (hat-tip to Observational Epidemiology). … Read more

Both Students And Professors Need Certification, and the Elsevier Boycott

I’ve written before about the evils of grading (for example, see here and here), the main purpose of which is to make certifying students easy. Our current grading system in mathematics is counterproductive to learning (students are inhibited from engaging in essential learning activities out of the fear that is naturally induced by typical high-stakes … Read more

How Much Mathematics Should A Student Memorize? Part 6, Derivatives Of Exponential And Logarithmic Functions

In teaching calculus many, many times over the years, I strove to present to my students my approach to learning and mastering the subject. Part of this approach can be summarized by the slogan memorize the minimum As a teacher, I took it as part of my responsibility to help students identify the essential core … Read more

Daniel Coyle On The Yin And Yang Of Learning

Unencumbered time and enchantment … why can’t we have more of that in our schools? Oh right, it’s because we’re too busy cramming vital content into our poor students’ heads … and then crushing their spirits as we drag them through high-stakes tests. The worst of it is that after 13 years of this, we … Read more

How Much Mathematics Should A Student Memorize? Part 5, The Multiplication Table

There has been a war in the mathematics education world for the past few decades about whether students should master basic skills, or whether they should use calculators or software for basic skills to save time and energy for higher-level thinking. More and more people nowadays are seeing this for what it is: a false … Read more

“When an Adult Took Standardized Tests Forced on Kids,” by Marion Brady

Marion Brady wrote a wonderful piece for a Washington Post blog a couple of days ago, which I found out about thanks to Susan Ohanian’s very informative site. A very successful member of American society, with two master’s degrees, who is also a member of a school board, decided to take his state’s standardized tests … Read more

Stupid Textbook Questions

One of the persistent complaints about mathematics and science textbooks, especially high-school textbooks, is that the questions tend to involve formula manipulation in a way that is not very meaningful. Such questions tend to be artificial. A case in point is the following question, taken from a chapter on special relativity in a high-school physics … Read more