Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Foundations for Maths Must be Built Long Before School

The educational-industrial complex of the US is successful at one thing: Creating generations of psychological neotenates. The entire approach to education as taken by government schools is self-serving and self-perpetuating -- more concerned over the system itself, than for the welfare and progress of learning children.

It is wrong for parents to surrender the education of their children to corrupt bureaucratic institutions. But it is also wrong for the educational-industrial complex to pretend that it is safe for parents to abdicate this responsibility.

Let's take maths in particular. Educational researchers have decided that students must be switched onto maths, to reverse the disastrous trends in maths failure that have become so commonplace. Other educational researchers have decided that maths teachers must be better trained, in order to reverse the disastrous failures in maths education.

But the truth is that if the mental foundations for maths are not constructed long before school curricula finally get around to needing them, it is probably too late for most students. This means that parents must expose their children to the patterns and mechanisms of real world forces and events, rather than leaving the education of the child up to television, video games, teachers, peers, and popular culture.

Mathematics is not about numbers, primarily. Mathematics is about patterns -- both static and dynamic, and sometimes chaotic. Number sense should be developed early, utilising game forms. But number sense is just a preliminary foundation for pattern sense, and relational sense. Learning these more complex forms of maths foundational skills requires exposure, which is not likely to occur accidentally.

The most optimal ways of learning these foundational conceptual skills have not been devised yet. Educational researchers are decades away from even understanding the need for them. Researchers into neurodevelopment and developmental psychology are likewise too often barking up the wrong tree, following the leads of the organisations which supply research grants.

It looks as if the rest of us have a lot of work to do to compensate for the incompetence and distractedness of "the experts."

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