Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Uphill Slog

Those watching over my shoulder for the past decade may have concluded that the ideas I champion can't be that viable, or more would have happened by now. There's a self-fulfilling aspect to feedback sometimes, which is sometimes positive, not always vicious.

In the case of learning math through developing one's coding skills, using a free state of the art language like Python, the idea is a no-brainer, meaning of course it's a good one, and for all its shortcomings, I'm pleased to see Pippy going out on the XO, complete with Fibonacci sequence (of Da Vinci Code fame) and Pascal's Triangle (a grand central station of convergent concepts).

I'm not sure what all has changed since the 1980s, but when I was a high school math teacher in Jersey City, going to night school in education theory at St. Peter's College, my observation was teachers considered their jobs low paying and low status, and coding skills were regarded as a ticket to some other more glamorous profession. Math teachers were especially likely to escape to new careers by this route.

The reason we don't teach Python programming as a way of learning mathematics is most people with such skills aren't interested in teaching at the K-12 level, and/or have no certification to do so.

In small pockets, tiny schools, it's possible to enforce higher, or simply different, standards.

The teachers I work with most closely tend to have pretty good computer and/or multimedia skills, although not always in Python.

But then I'm the guy who wants my back office managers to have a general systems theory background -- "just economics" won't do. No wonder we have so few at the top in my virtual world. Most jobs go begging.