Math Haters Unite!

November 18, 2003

Jason Kottke has a great link on his Remaindered Links weblog , A Guide for Teaching Mathematics . And of those who know me in the “analog” world, know that I absolutely hate math. So this little diddy, actually brought a smile upon my face.

It’s not that I hate math, I hate the way it’s taught….on blackboards, through monotone voices and through a cycle of lectures on the Pythagorean theorem. But, my best grade in college was in an Algebra class (93, A). But it was a unique class, that was called “interactive”. I initially thought (as was told) that it was a computer-based class, but wound up being a community math and probably the best class I’ve had in my entire scholastic career.

The basic thought of the “Interactive” process, was to work in groups. 3-5 people working, learning, and teaching each other the lessons. Our class would start with about a 30 minute lesson and then we broke into our groups to further learn the instruction. Our instructor would roam around, helping out the groups as needed, but we really talked about each problem and help each other learn how to work the math. At test time, we still worked in groups. Our grades were based on the average of the group’s test scores. So that was really your incentive to work together, as everyone did.

We were really “beta testing” this class, before the book went into it’s second printing. One of the advisors of the Algebra book was our teacher, so she had an insight into how to teach the class. One of the people in my group, was in the original alpha test of the book, when the pages were being FedEx’ed in and faxed in on a daily basis…had the photocopies too. So we got in on the ground floor of this method.

Unfortunately, the next “Interactive Algebra” class I took, Algebra II, was taught by a standard math teacher who didn’t teach it with the methods outlined in the original book. She stood up and lectured for an hour and gave us 30 minutes to do the problems…without talking. I think I was the poster-boy for disillusionment in that class. After that semester, they dropped the program and I dropped out of college.