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Math help, myths

June 1st, 2015 by Derrick

Math Help should not be built on myths. But, perhaps there is something to be gained by exploring the educational myths. They all have intuitive appeal which may account for their longevity. Perhaps a slight change to address the ‘experts’ concerns, can be useful to Math Help.

Project Based Learning or PBL
This is constructivism with a new name. This has worked for some things, although it was very time consuming. The ‘experts’ are trying to apply PBL to all learning, without thinking this through. The latest selling point is that PBL teaches creative thinking. Without a solid base provided by direct instruction, the thinking is flawed and dangerous.
Also, allowing students to speculate is dangerous because they are inevitably going to get wrong ideas in their heads. And wrong ideas can be difficult to get rid of.

Teachers discover that PBL does not always work and some teachers then work around it by having more direct instruction followed by Projects to reinforce learning. They now can say they have Project Based Learning.
Some teachers persist with pure PBL and end up with students that have reduced learning.
However, success stories are spread around to prove that PBL works. I don’t know who benefits but I certainly know who loses.

As stated previously – Math help, theory, Math Help will stick with direct instruction but will use all methods to help with revision.

Related articles:
peer assessment of PBL
criticism of PBL

Different learning styles
The theory says that learning could be improved if children were classified and taught according to their preferred learning style. This myth is based on the fact that visual, auditory, and kinesthetic information is processed in different parts of the brain. But, it is wrong to assume that only one area of the brain is involved with information processing.

Although people do have a preference for either sight, sound or touch when receiving new information, these separate structures in the brain are highly interconnected.
The accepted solution is to try and use all three: a visual diagram, talk to explain, and let the student make notes. Try and have the student’s senses work in unison and exploit the immense interconnectivity that exists in the brain.

The Learning Styles model is a very simplified model of Multiple Intelligence – ( Wikipedia, Multiple Intelligence ). Math Help will, to some extent, be using this model.

Other neuromyths in education
The consensus is that, to date, there are no neuroscience findings that can be directly applied to education/learning. There are no benefits in these myths. If you disagree, please let everyone know in the comments section below.

Neuromyths are loosely based on scientific facts. Commercial interests have used this loose connection to neuroscience findings to develop a “brain-based learning” industry that sell “neuromyths”. Their marketing can be very persuasive.

Some of the more popular myths:

Early Enriched environments
This is wrong as the human brain shows plasticity throughout the whole life and is not limited to an “enriched” environment phase during the first three years of life.

We only use 10% of our brain
There is absolutely no scientific evidence, which confirms this myth, not even to some extent. Special functions of the brain regions are known: It is possible to create a map of the brain, so that it becomes clear that there is not an inactive 90%.

The Left/Right Brain Myth
According to the myth, we need activation of both sides of the brain to overcome the deficiencies of weak right or left brains that hold back student intelligence and success. The truth is that all brain activities requiring cognition activate neural networks on both sides of the brain.

There are lots more myths and failed theories but the above will suffice for now.

This is part two of the Math help series. To be advised when the next in the series is published, fill in the ‘Follow’ form.
Please leave a comment below and tell me what you thinkā€¦

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