Baker’s complaint about math education (NOT MATH!), as I read the article, is that it lacks a fundamental narrative. That is, we expose our students to “hairy, square-rooted, polynomialed horseradish clumps of mute symbology that irritate them, that stop them in their tracks, that they can’t understand.” We do this for a variety of reasons: it’s on the test, it’s the next unit in the (Common Core) curriculum, it’s what they need to take the next course, etc. We spend no time at all on the great story, which is of math itself and the power we humans have gained by its use. As a result, we produce large numbers of students who (mostly) think of math as that disconnected, irrelevant, annoying, frustrating subject.
When you visit most math classrooms it’s like you’re in a Kafkaesque universe of these degraded social worlds where children are filling in bubbles rather than connecting the dots. It’s driven by a compliance mentality on tests that are neither worthy of our children nor worthy of the discipline they purport to reflect.
All of the Finnish National Standards for Math, grades 1-9, fit on just 9 pages. In contrast, our K-8 Math Common Core Standards fit on 70 pages along with another 145-page appendix of requirements for grades 8-12.
effective teaching is incredibly complex. It requires planning. It requires reflection. And it certainly requires more than just “two minutes of research on Google,” which is how Khan describes his own pre-lesson routine.
teachers aren’t “pissed off” because Sal Khan is the world’s teacher. They’re concerned that he’s a bad teacher who people think is great; that the guy who’s delivered over 170 million lessons to students around the world openly brags about being unprepared and considers the precise explanation of mathematical concepts to be mere “nitpicking.” Experienced educators are concerned that when bad teaching happens in the classroom, it’s a crisis; but that when it happens on YouTube, it’s a “revolution.”