Sunday, March 4, 2012

Are Details Important?

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 Take a look at this page of mine. The photos there I collected merely as examples of basic errors that should have been detected and corrected, but weren't. Although I was a math teacher, and careless arithmetic was my bugaboo, I pick more on sloppy spelling. After all, the public admits to innumeracy (every time someone hews to the line "I was no good at math...") but rejects illiteracy (except for others). If errors like this make there way to the surface, imagine what other errors are there behind the scenes that cannot be seen. Also, imagine the errors made when the public deals with numbers.

I attribute these creeping errors to two trends: the rapid introduction of calculators in schools, and the push for accepting faulty spelling and bad grammar as long as the student was expressing the way they felt. (see Bad spelling 'should be accepted') Calculators have actually hastened the demise of long division, which had been one of the first forays for kids into the world of an extended algorithm.

History does point out to us that spelling has evolved and grammar has evolved as written language continues its asymptotic approach to spoken language, so in some respects spelling and grammar errors are a bit understandable. But not in the cases given in the photo link above. None of those cases should fall under the heading of someone valiantly attempting to work out a spelling congruent with the spoken word.

Arithmetic errors, however, are totally not good. No exceptions, no excuses.  Unfortunately we are developing a society that is dependent upon calculators for all its arithmetic, which scares me. (Have you never dialed a wrong number?)

Below are some items for my reference and for your reading pleasure.
“It is a profoundly erroneous truism that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”
Alfred North Whitehead

Study after study shows U.S. achievement falls off the cliff during middle school, when subjects like fractions and percentages are introduced -- exactly the skills you need as a consumer or, for that matter, to move on to algebra, calculus and advanced sciences. ( from Why American consumers can't add)

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