Thursday, June 04, 2015


I have the last of my end of school year meetings today and tomorrow, and I'm in the thick of summer planning with an ESSA class beginning on Monday and classes at Marc Adams School of woodworking following in two weeks. Over the next week, I'll be working with adult students to make Scandinavian bent wood boxes. At the liquor store last night, the clerk suggested that "now with school being out, I might have time to relax." But that is seldom the case. Even when teachers are not in the classroom, they are often occupied in preparation of some kind.

This morning I was reading about one of our more complex subjects, the teaching of math. Researchers have learned that students have great trouble bridging from their math classes to actual application of math in science and engineering classes for several reasons. One is that mathematics are often taught in classes that are virtual silos, and isolated from other areas of study. Another is that math is actually a complex set of relationships built only partially upon numbers. Literacy and reading skills are also intricately involved. The following article from Education Week shows some interesting folded paper work used to expand math skills, and all should remember that mathematics is about far more than numbers alone. How Can Students Better Apply Math Learning? New Studies Hold Answers,

Way back in the history of manual and industrial arts, it's original intent, as conceptualized by John Runkle at MIT and Calvin Woodward at Washington University,  and in addition to creating a skilled and caring workforce, was to give relevance to teaching math. Engineering students just didn't arrive at its finer points without having some means through which to apply what they were expected to learn. And so, when educational policy makers leaped to the erroneous conclusion that we no longer needed wood shops (and having bought into the weird notion that we could no longer compete as a manufacturing nation), they cut the supply of competent engineering students passing through schools, which then made it necessary that we recruit them from abroad.

I am reminded of my sister, who was told by her 9th grade math teacher that she would never amount to anything in math... that she just simply didn't have a mind capable of it, but as an adult, went on to design counter-change smocking patterns in use through out the world. And so traditionally taught math teachers, who think math is about numbers could do some homework. Math should always be taught upon a foundation of doing the real things that the numbers represent, and that requires stepping away from the blackboard into real life.

It seems that one of our human traits that does us the least good (from the standpoint of our humanity) is to objectify relationships. For example we take a set of objects and count them, assign a number and forget that number represents complex sets of relationships between and within each. We can take a whole classroom of kids and assign test scores and other means of abstraction to create a view of those kids in which they are thus managed, but seen only in part. Numbers and our ability to reduce things to numbers is the way we step back to take a more general view of things, but we should never forget that the subject of all that counting is real, personal, and of value in closer relationship.

It's OK to take things apart, but do so carefully, as you may be expected to put things back together.

It appears that my new book has been named and listed on Amazon, complete with cover design. The editing is still taking place and the proposed date of publication will come much later in the year.

Make, fix and create...

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