On Edspresso, “John Dewey,” a baby boomer studying for a second career as a math teacher, complains his ed school prof always agrees with whatever’s said since there can be no wrong answers.
Students — four of five future math teachers are baby boomers — are learning that math anxiety is the biggest hurdle in teaching. “Problems with only one correct answer limit students’ critical thinking skills,” professors say.
“Open-ended” problems with many answers, on the other hand, reduce math anxiety because it relieves the pressure to produce THE correct answer. Students are thus liberated to be creative and use “higher order thinking skills.”
. . . One student said that the scratch-on-the-floor problem actually made her more anxious because she wasn’t sure what she was doing wrong. The teacher said “Yes, I agree,” and concluded that perhaps the best way is to tell the students at the outset that there is more than one right answer. I suggested asking the students what additional information should be provided to make the problem well defined. “I agree,” he agreed again.
Dewey thinks teaching students math fundamentals would help them tackle harder problems with less anxiety. His professor agrees.