Found in 3 comments on Hacker News
tokenadult · 2011-12-05 · Original thread
I have lived in one of the other countries, know hundreds upon hundreds of people from several of the other countries, and own and have read textbooks from several of the top TIMSS countries, including textbooks written in languages other than English. (I speak, understand, read, and write Chinese to the level of a professional translator and interpreter.) I reject the facile analysis you picked up from a blog post--so far not published in a peer-reviewed journal--by a graduate student who has yet to complete his degree because I have read better research on the subject by authors who have completed their Ph.D. degrees at better academic institutions, and who have published in peer-reviewed journals of high quality. I'm sorry for you if you are stuck on one lame explanation for the phenomenon of underperforming United States schools, but especially if you would take the time and effort to read good-quality dead-tree literature on the subject,

you could learn something new that could help you better understand the other countries in the world and what the United States might learn from them.

tokenadult · 2011-03-23 · Original thread
Cal Newport, the author of the submitted blog post, draws comments both here on HN and on his own blog pointing out that deep understanding of a subject doesn't necessarily equate to VISUAL thinking about a subject. There is a big literature on "learning styles" and some attempts by some schoolteachers to categorize children by what their preferred learning styles are. When I have taken learning style questionnaires, and when I have asked my wife (a piano performance major and private music teacher) about this, the answer on learning styles is "all of the above." I personally think, based on my observations of successful learners of a variety of subjects, that learning styles are themselves learnable, and a learner with a deep knowledge of a particular subject will know multiple representations of that subject. My wife has had many piano performance courses, and also music theory and ear training courses, and has learned visual representations of music both in the form of standard musical notation and in the form of "music mapping,"

which she has found very helpful.

As for mathematics, the subject I teach now, I have always cherished visual representations of mathematical concepts, for example those found in W. W. Sawyer's book Vision in Elementary Mathematics

But other mathematicians who taught higher mathematics, for example Serge Lang, recommended memorizing some patterns of multiplying polynomials by oral recitation, just like reciting a poem.

The acclaimed books on Calculus by Michael Spivak

and Tom Apostol

are acclaimed in large part because they use both well-chosen diagrams and meticulously rewritten words to deepen a student's acquaintance with calculus, related elementary calculus concepts to the more advanced concepts of real analysis.

Chinese-language textbooks about elementary mathematics for advanced learners, of which I have many at home, take care to introduce multiple representations of all mathematical concepts. The brilliant book Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers' Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States by Liping Ma

demonstrates with cogent examples just what a "profound understanding of fundamental mathematics" means, and how few American teachers have that understanding.

Elementary school teachers having a poor grasp of mathematics and thus not helping their pupils prepare for more advanced study of mathematics continues to be an ongoing problem in the United States.

In light of recent HN threads about Khan Academy,

I wonder what Khan Academy users who also have read the submitted blog post by Cal Newport think about how well students using Khan Academy as a learning tool can follow Newport's advice to gain insight into a subject. Is Khan Academy enough, or does it need to be supplemented with something else?

tokenadult · 2009-05-03 · Original thread
I'm an elementary teacher

Definitely baseball statistics for that audience. Also finishing times for sprints to thousandths of a second.

Not to answer your question, but to suggest useful resources for elementary math teaching, I'll suggest

an essential book for someone in your profession, and

a book with wonderful teaching tips, and

a very excellent set of exercises for any elementary mathematics teacher preparing lessons, and a great guide to the best available series of mathematics textbooks in English.

You might also try asking your question on the appropriate forum

(the forum is really for middle school math, but you could give it a try) on the Art of Problem Solving site, a generally good site for discussion of math.

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