Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Peace Treaty?

Regarding efforts to bring an end to the so-called Math Wars, I argue on PHYSLRNR (a listserv frequented by physics teachers) that a participatory democracy leaves room for competition among diverse schools of thought.

There's no "one right way" we all have to teach mathematics.

For example, my subculture would never agree to just bleep over Bucky Fuller's concentric hierarchy, but others consciously choose to do so, while still others have yet to learn they've had a choice (to bleep, or not to bleep?) lo these many decades.

Thoughts regarding: Math Wars Peace Treaty (thread)
Thread initiator: Richard Hake
Respondent: Kirby Urner


Originally posted to math-teach @ Math Forum, Drexel. Feb 14, 2007 3:22 AM

Whereas I think we'll be more productive if agreeing to civil debate, motivations for calling an end to the "math wars" should be examined, if this means accepting some one size fits all curriculum, absent local and/or cyber community control.

For example, my geek ethnicity would never agree to limit itself to the geometric content offered under the heading of Virtual Manipulatives, in the Toolkit for Change, in support of the following standard for grades 9-12:

"use geometric ideas to solve problems in, and gain insights into, other disciplines and other areas of interest such as art and architecture."

[ links deleted ]

Said virtual manipulatives miss our core artifact for introducing polyhedra, the so-called Concentric Hierarchy developed by R. Buckminster Fuller (

We consider this a core virtual manipulative and do not accept any math curriculum that fails to include it. We also don't much like using a Mercator Projection, per (we have our own, much better projection).

Is this an "extremist position"? It doesn't need to be.

We're implementing our curriculum unhampered, our children are benefiting, plus there's no sense of needing to win any math war, as what other ethnicities choose to implement need not be our focus or business.

On the other hand, we defend our right to recruit faculty and students to our network and see no reason to withhold criticisms and/or opinions regarding competing curricula, i.e. we're at liberty to join in the debates that swirl about how best to teach math.

In sum, I disagree with the premise that children must necessarily suffer just because there's no universal agreement on standards and/or content. This is as it should be in a participatory democracy that gives ethnic groups a lot of say over how to educate their own. Diversity in mathematics education is not something to overcome or get beyond.

There's no contradiction between pursuing our own version of the American Dream, and being at odds with some of the more mainstream curricula.

Kirby Urner
Gnu Math Teacher
Portland, Oregon