Monday, August 18, 2014

Can you drive while adding 2 digits numbers?

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Today's Albany Times Union contains an Associated Press article written by Lauran Neergaard. Actually, the paper does not name the writer, just credits the story to the AP. A little searching discovered the article's author, and also some interesting headlines for the article. Here are three of them:

In math, memorizing counts out of Albany Times Union
Kids’ brains reorganize when learning math skills from Fallreporter.com out of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

I find it interesting that each title creates a slightly different spin. The Fallreporter.com version promotes the stance that learning mathematics (which in this article is described as basic arithmetic) changes the way the brain operates. The KOB4 version might be taken to describe a more static brain which can reveal what is happening when kids learn math. The Times Union headline seems to stress the most basic form of remembering, known as memorization, as the big key.

I note that the Fond du Lac title matches the title used at ABC News (see it here)

Somehow, somewhere, somebody has to realize that memorization is only a short-term solution, and can only lead to a long-term skill if that which is memorized is then used repeatedly. In the case of arithmetic, this would require a delay in the use of calculators until arithmetic skills have been strongly embedded in the brain.

Take a moment to read Susan R. Barry's column from Psychology Today titled "Math and Memory", and  the Josef Parvizi (Stanford Medicine News Center) article "Mathematics or Memory?"

Start with the AP column and the two articles just named, and consider them in light of our big push to stop texting while driving. In what way is driving a car similar to doing arithmetic? Or is it the texting that is more like doing arithmetic? Can you text and do arithmetic simultaneously? Or is it easier to drive and do arithmetic easier? I would suspect that using a calculator while driving is very dangerous. Can you say that about doing basic arithmetic mentally and driving at the same time?

Unless and until you have carefully considered situations such as these, I would shy away from making claims that giving kids calculators is helping them.

Let's give the kids arithmetic, and keep the calculators away, until they are truly needed, not just wanted.

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