Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ There is a worldwide problem in math and it's not just about the pandemic

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Canadians may have listed to the Cross-Country Checkup program on the subject (including one contributor very slowly explaining that we need to "decompose" concepts into simple and easy-to-understand components). But it's a phenomenon that defies easy explanation: as this article notes, the decline in math scores is worldwide, and the trend predates Covid. Canada remains near the top of the table, Finland has plummeted 60 points, China and India declined to participate in 2022, and the new star is Japan (where "students are taught with a more progressive approach in elementary school... by high school, when this PISA exam is taken, direct, explicit instruction is more the norm"). My explanation (which is as uninformed as the rest) is that most math just isn't useful any more to people; aside from the basics (which a calculator can do) the math students in some disciplines (like AI, which needs matrix functions) is different from that needed in others (like physics, which depends on calculus). So proponents are reduced to (and this was a real comment) defending math on the basis of its aesthetic qualities which, like are and culture, all students should be able to enjoy. Read more.


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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: May 18, 2024 7:43 p.m.

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