No wrong answers

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.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. I wonder if the “no wrong answers” argument would fly with the IRS when they are checking over one’s tax return…

    Actually, one of the reasons I LIKED math is school was that there WAS a right answer – it wasn’t the touchy feely opinion stuff like some of the stuff in Social Studies.

    (And when I got an answer wrong? I generally learned more – by going over how and why I got it wrong. Maybe I just had unusually good teachers…)

  2. Indigo Warrior says:

    ricki:
    Actually, one of the reasons I LIKED math is school was that there WAS a right answer – it wasn’t the touchy feely opinion stuff like some of the stuff in Social Studies.

    Concomitant with “there was a right answer” is the fact that some problems actually have solutions! Mathematics, and by extension science and engineering, is positivism in action.

    That’s not what the Church of Mindless Despair Dressed As Self-Esteem types want kids to think. Light one candle, or better yet invent the light bulb, rather than have to deal with darkness (and disease, tyranny, etc.) as unalterable “facts of life”.

    That’s why I liked math and science.

  3. I wonder how “no wrong answers” would fly. Period. I hold a private pilot’s certificate, and it shouldn’t require enormously detailed explication to point out that there are cases in which plain life or death survival turns on the whole Right Answer and nothing but the Right Answer. Nothing else will do.

    This guy is a killer.