Nostalgic for factual recall

The memorize cassette

Two quotes from today’s article in The Des Moines Register, Iowa Poll: Common Core not so radioactive for Iowans:

Ah, the good old days

When Iowa Poll respondents opposed to Common Core standards were asked about their objections, some lamented the shift from traditional teaching methods such as rote memorization of facts and formulas to a focus on more critical thinking.

Because we’ve learned nothing about teaching math in 50 years

Civil engineer Jack Burnham Jr., a 40-year-old independent voter, also has a “very negative” view. “I’ve got a math primer from the 1960s,” he said. “That math worked just fine.”

Shifting the public’s conceptions about learning and teaching is an ongoing, uphill battle…

Image credit: the memorize cassette, Robert Oxford

4 Responses to “Nostalgic for factual recall”

  1. It’s crazy to think about the shift from state standards to common core standards. As an educator trying to close the educational gaps and iniquities, I was extremely excited about the implementation of the Common Core Standards. My first year teaching them, I was very overwhelmed because I was having to fill a great deal of gaps from the previous standards to what was being expected from students now. As rough as that year was, I still think very highly of Common Core standards because they are teaching our students to think deeper and be able to explain the why factor to formulas, scenarios, and so much more. Yes, education is a cycle and yes students are learning the same skills that my have been taught in the past, but students understand and can explain what they are doing and why they are doing it. Parents are often times overwhelmed by all the different strategies our math homework asks for, and have asked me why can’t y’all just teach it like it used to be taught. I have tried to explain to them that we are filling up our students tool box with many different tools and strategies to solve problems so that they can use what works best for them.

  2. I understand the push for learning skills over memorizing concepts. It emphasizes the ability to quickly research information online, increasing the use of technology within education. Hand in hand, it is critical we teach students how to use technology effectively by critically assessing sources.

    However, it can be debilitating when a student consistently needs to calculate simple addition and subtraction. Some parts of education I believe should still follow the rote memorization route. We must not be too quick to completely change, but reflect on the benefits on past techniques and keep them, while incorporating the new changes that would expunge the “bad” from before.

    The common core of teaching skills can be done with physical sources, however I believe the use of technology to look up concepts will benefit students most in the long run as technology continues to advance and students should learn how to use these tools effectively. However, there is still a great lack of resources within many schools. One movement is to investigate how smartphones can be used instead of computers. Lower socioeconomic populations have more smartphones than computers. I find that my students are also more efficient at typing on their phones than computers. Phones are also more easily accessible, usually held in pocket ready to search a concept.

    • There will always be some things we need to carry in our heads (want to have a fun discussion? talk with folks about what those might be). But as more of us carry around mobile computing devices connected to the Internet, we’re going to find that those things are fewer and fewer over time…

  3. People may not like change, but they cannot stop it from happening. Technology is changing our world, and, therefore, education has to adapt to prepare students for the evolving social networks and job markets. While I think problem based learning incorporates necessary 21st century skills, memorization still has a small role to play in the classroom.

    As a high school Physics teacher, I’ve noticed students who struggle tend to be reluctant to attempt fluency in physics vocabulary. I agree with Tkim74 that it is beneficial to have basic computational skills and academic language memorized to increase students’ abilities to effectively problem solve and think critically about topics. While it is easy to consult a smartphone, it is less efficient than establishing a working vocabulary to improve understanding. While this is a more “traditional” part of education, it is just the beginning to prepare students for a future STEM career.

    Beyond vocabulary, it is true that processes such as designing an experiment, data analysis, and drawing conclusions are crucial in todays open sourced world. Problem based learning challenges students to try to develop solutions to current problems using concepts from class. Manipulating numerical data requires equations and information that students have at their fingertips, but despite easy access to content students are not always sure where to begin to develop solutions. This is why critical thinking skills are so important in schools today. Instead of asking “who, what, where, and when” questions, we should focus on “how and why”. These questions in a collaborative work environment will better prepare our students with transferrable skills for jobs that may not even exist yet!

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