Haverford College (Chemistry)
University of Rochester (NY) (Graduate Coursework)
University of Massachusetts (PhD)
I knew from childhood I wanted to be a teacher, but never fit into the system very well. As an "outsider", I have tasted the cultural and educational difficulties students can have. My training was in physical chemistry, which required quite a lot of mathematics, which I loved very much, and yet did not excel in. My approach to math and science has always been philosophical, intuitive, and explanatory, and I believe it benefits me that none of what I learned really came easily to me. I have always had a warm spot for students having trouble, and well understand the confusion, terror, and self-esteem destruction that can occur from having difficulty and not being able to see wherein the problem lies! Once we get off the track, we either drop out or suffer immensely, and the way back on track can be quite invisible, and often as not, not even of a mathematical nature. It is not ultimately important to identiy the problem, as long as we stumble into the solution!
I switched my focus from physical science to mathematics when I was teaching at The Putney School in the eighties, sheerly out of astonishment at the very wide-spread kinds of difficulties mathematics students were having. It was completely apparent to me that these problems could not entirely be the makings of students or parents. It is still entirely arguable exactly why mathematics is so inaccessible in contemporary society, but usually the philosophical underpinnings and reasoning are neglected. Somehow, mathematics at the school level has become a sort of ritual of routines, rather than something that appeals to feeling and a sense of world understanding. Geometry, as the most ancient of these studies, often causes chaos, since it is entirely alien to many students, and a deeply philosophical subject, the likes of which most students have not encountered. We teach philosophy only as a college-level specialty, and young people often have no idea what hit them. Algebra is more "a routine", a sort of shortcut arithmetic, and is more likely to cause boredom than confusion. If students in high school encounter calculus, they usually have nothing approximating preparation for the astonishing philosophical underlayment in that gradual development between Archimedes of Syracuse to around 1700, simultaneously in England, France, and Germany. It was actually over a century before mathematicians were sure they believed it themselves! So I don't want students to go near calculus until they really have the intellectual, perhaps even historical, background for it. That subject is in no way a "shortcut arithmetic"! I usually doubt the validity of AP courses in mathematics. I knew from childhood I wanted to be a teacher, but never fit into the system very well. As an "outsider", I have tasted the cultural and educational difficulties students can have. My training was in physical chemistry, which required quite a lot of … Read more
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