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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Intellectual growth

I’m examining an Algebra II book that looks really good so far (Discovering Advanced Algebra: An Investigative Approach, by Murdock, Kamischke, and Kamischke — if you’re interested). But a statement in the Note to Teachers got me thinking:
Students will approach each new concept and challenge with mathematical tools that support their particular learning strengths — be they algebraic, numerical, graphical, or verbal.
Maybe I’m taking this too literally. I’m all for using one’s strengths, but how will students ever identify their strengths if they don’t have lots of experiences where they’re required to use approaches that they may consider to be among their weaknesses? Surely a student should spend a considerable amount of time developing greater facility with all appropriate tools.

We promote mathematical growth by saying, “You’ve got to learn this tool well enough so that you become comfortable and competent in using it. Then you can decide whether it’s the best tool for you when approaching a particular problem.”

We don’t promote mathematical growth by saying, “Just play to your strengths.” That way closes doors. We need to open them.

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