Monday, November 14, 2005

Never practice a mistake

Mail 387 November 6 - 13, 2005

"The newest fad in education is to force children to independently reinvent every concept of mathematics from counting to calculus. This approach might work for the next Richard Feynman, but it is a disaster for every child who is not a mathematical prodigy."

Math is not like physical law. You can't just discover it from observation, it is an artificial construct that we use for convenience, that makes it as much a language like English or Chinese. Sure there are a few prodigies like Gauss and Feynman and a few others that could do it but they are like Mozart who started to play the piano at 3, very very rare.

That is why we have to teach the basics to children or anyone wanting to know how to use math. We don't speak in math so we have to teach it another way.

You won't expect a child to learn a language you never spoke to them.

Further along:
"My first grade teacher spelled the name of a red fruit as "appul". I corrected her. She told me I had to learn how to spell the wrong way before I was taught how to spell the right way. I ignored her. I saved myself two years of confusion, because by the time I was in third grade ITA had been abandoned. My classmates took years to recover."

This is a great way to completely destroy the learning potential of a child. Not long ago I posted about how MIT research found that habits are created when neural pathways are laid down, which comes from action and repetition.

If you want to set up someone to fail just teach them the most complex and hardest way to do something, they will make mistakes and soon be unable to do that task.

If you want to learn something quickly and well, start by doing it very slowly and correctly each time, soon speed will come because you are doing it right each time and you are not wasting time unlearning something.

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