Friday, November 4, 2016

The Math Menu

A quick thought, spring-boarding off Monday's post: A constant debate in math education is whether students should be directly-taught mathematical results, or spend time (like a mathematician) exploring problems, looking for patterns, and coming up with their own "theorems" (in Mubeen's phrasing "own the problem space").

Here is a hypothetical equivalent debate: What is supposed to happen in a restaurant -- Does food get cooked, or does food get eaten?

Obviously both. But the majority of people who visit the establishment are clientele who do not come to the restaurant in order to learn how to cook; they come for an end-product which is used in a different fashion (for consumption and nourishment). If someone expresses interest in becoming a chef themselves then of course we should encourage and cultivate that. But if some group of chefs become so self-involved that they demand everyone participate in cooking for a "real" restaurant experience, then surely we'd all agree that they'd gone off the deep end and needed restraints.

So too with mathematicians.