Lockhart’s Lament

Here’s a paper we had to read for my number theory class.  It’s rather long, but if you read the first four or five pages you’ll get the general point.  Basically, Lockhart has a major problem with how math is taught in our school system.  He feels that math is taught mostly by showing people how to follow specific rules.  In grade school and undergraduate classes, those who excel at math are those who can follow these rules the best, not those who exhibit the best independent and creative thinking.  According to him, success in mathematics beyond this is predicated on the ability to think critically and independently.  More importantly, he argues, people are not exposed to this side of math and therefore aren’t aware how interesting it really is.  Although much of it sounds like he’s just bitching about people not knowing what he does for a living, there’s surely some truth to it.  But how would one go about implementing lesson plans that follow these guidelines?  He rails against standardized testing, but is there a way around using them to ensure some basic competency?  In the end, he raises some very interesting questions, but provides few answers.  I thought this might be especially interesting to anybody who might be teaching a math class in the near future.

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