greensword: (happy einstein)
[personal profile] greensword
Spending the holiday reading about the history of mathematics, to be followed by a classic Dr. Who marathon. Embrace your inner geek!

When I was in first grade, my teacher was trying to get us to understand subtraction. "Whenever you take a larger number from a smaller number," she said, "the answer is zero. For instance, five minus seven is zero."

I raised my hand. "No it's not. It's negative two."

"Who taught you that? Your parents? Well, nevermind that, you'll confuse people. The answer is zero."

For what was neither the first or the last time, my teacher made me go sit in a corner and read while everybody else caught up.

What I wish she had said:

"You're right, the answer is negative two, but for a long time people didn't know about negative numbers? In fact, they didn't even know about zero! Mathematics started as a way for people to understand the world around them. If you borrow two candies from me, and then four candies from me, it's important for me to know that you owe me six candies, not one or five or three! Well, for a long time people didn't see a need for negative numbers. It was only about fourteen hundred years ago that an Indian man named Brahmagupta invented negative numbers, the same man who invented zero. If you'd like to know more about him, I'll show you where to look..."

Agreement!

Date: 2009-02-17 01:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keikokat.livejournal.com
I can't tell you how often I wished the same kind of thing, particularly in elementary school, although math was the one subject in which the advanced kids were actually encouraged. Starting in third grade, me and four other kids were pulled off into our own group and taught math way in advance of our grade. But so many times I got the same response when I tried to answer correctly. "Yes, you're right, but we're going to pretend you're not so we don't confuse the other kids. Go twiddle your thumbs while everyone else learns a dumb system that will be useless once you're in a higher grade." God, that was so frustrating. I didn't understand why they couldn't pull a separate group aside for reading, science, etc. Why are the "smart" kids made to suffer in order to cater to the "dumb" kids? Not to say that everyone's education isn't important, but shouldn't brightness and talent be encouraged? Not sent off to the sidelines to rot in boredom and become jaded by high school. No wonder I all but dropped out senior year. I'm sure you feel much the same. Sorry, I just had to comment on this entry, it hit a nerve that I've had since I was really young.

Re: Agreement!

Date: 2009-02-17 04:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
I wished we'd hung out more senior year, sounds like we were in exactly the same place without knowing it. Of course, I started skipping school and never even graduated, but at least we could have been miserable together.

I remember once walking through the Target in that shopping center near where I lived and seeing a trivia game like Cranium or something that advertised itself as "the game where it's okay to be smart!" Shouldn't that be, I don't know, the game of LIFE? Ugh.

Date: 2009-02-17 07:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ominousspectre.livejournal.com
As a teacher, this really bugs me.

It's not to say that I've ever found it frustrating to teach 30 students, all of a different level. But I've always invited the "advanced" kids to spend a period with me once week to further their education versus lying to them about it.

It's also interesting to me because this happened to you during math class. It's been my experience that school systems have a level system in place for reading but not for math, which was always upsetting to me. I was always awful at math and was automatically placed in Honors level math during middle school only because I scored high in the other subjects. I wish teachers had the resources to effectively teach with differentiation.

Date: 2009-02-17 12:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
Yeah, I don't really blame that particular teacher, but the system itself. I wish there were more resources that individual students could get more attention.

I don't remember feeling frustrated about reading, but then I never felt I needed to learn anything at school about reading - just give me a book, yo. It was math and science that I really found boring and limiting.

Date: 2009-02-17 11:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwystal.livejournal.com
stupid teachers! i will keep this in mind, wanting to be a first grade teacher myself...

Date: 2009-02-18 01:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] grolby.livejournal.com
Oh boy. That brings me back to the third grade. My teacher and another teacher were swapping half of each others' classes for a couple hours a day for a week or two, with one teaching a little unit on earth science (basically, putting rocks in egg cartons) and one on astronomy (basic star facts and constellations).

After doing the earth science, which was booooring, I got sent over to the other teacher's class for astronomy. I was excited! I knew something about this! To my shock and horror, she asked the students which stars they thought would be hot or cold, and when they predictably said that they thought that the red stars would be hot and the blue ones cold (well, not quite so hot), she said that their intuitions were correct!

I was appalled, but dared not raise my hand to protest. I'd gotten in enough trouble for trying to correct my regular teacher. Yeah, I was an insufferable little brat, but moving on...

We had to do an exercise where we drew a red start, yellow star and blue star and give the basic facts about each: hot, cool, in-between. I did the exercise correctly (so, the opposite of the way she had taught us), and naturally it was marked wrong.

A couple days later, the teacher was paging through the book while looking for constellations to teach us, when she came across a picture and realized her mistake. Off-hand, she told the class to switch what she had told them, but this was pretty much irrelevant since there would be no more assignments on the subject. Afterward, I approached her and asked her, "Since I actually did it right, doesn't my assignment now count as being correct?" Her answer? "No, because you didn't follow directions".

That still makes me kind of angry. In retrospect, I think that she simply couldn't imagine that a nine year-old kid would no more about even rudimentary astronomy than she did - that is, I didn't put down the correct answers because I actually knew them, but because I was either too stupid or too stubborn to just follow her directions. Of course, I WAS too stubborn, but not just for the sake of rebellion. I knew all along that she was wrong and I was right. I was angry about this for years.

Oh, third grade. Those were the days.

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