Saturday, 4 September 2010

Follow up on "Crisis Footnotes"

After my very recent post on "Crisis in the Teaching of Elementary Mathematics" I just found a couple of more notes that describe some views of professional math educators in the 20s and 30s who were published in a major journal, The American Mathematics Monthly.

In a talk to the summer meeting at the University of Michigan, Professor K. P. Williams of Indiana University pointed out that, although the "National Committee entitled Reorganization of Mathematics in Secondary Education" in 1923 stated that "one year of mathematics should be required of all pupils in the high school".... Then he adds, "This thought was out of harmony with the ideas that were in control of secondary mathematics and could hardly be expected to win favor."
"Certain general aims for mathematical study were set forth and it was argued that they would not be advanced by having mathematics a universally required study at a time when the high schools have come to enroll so large a percentage of youths of high school age."

Addendum: A few days after I wrote this, I came across a journal article that said that in 1336 the University of Paris introduced a rule that no student should graduate without attending lectures in mathematics.
Another comment only a few months before in a review of a translation of Euclid's Elements comments, "So it is today, in all highly civilized countries, that geometry is taught, usually to girls as well as boys, but the textbooks lack the rigidity of proof ....., being softened to fit the feeble mentality of high-school pupils today."

I am reminded of a comic from a long while back who would ask at the end of each show, "Is there anyone I haven't offended yet?"

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