Tom Gilson

Study Suggests Math Teachers Scrap Balls and Slices – New York Times

This reminds me of so many other untested beliefs. Parents and teachers have been of the opinion lately that students will understand math better using real-world objects to illustrate abstract concepts. Research now suggests this is wrong.

“The motivation behind this research was to examine a very widespread belief about the teaching of mathematics, namely that teaching students multiple concrete examples will benefit learning,” said Jennifer A. Kaminski, a research scientist at the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State. “It was really just that, a belief.”

Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues Vladimir M. Sloutsky and Andrew F. Heckler did something relatively rare in education research: they performed a randomized, controlled experiment. Their results appear in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

[From Study Suggests Math Teachers Scrap Balls and Slices – New York Times]

I don’t have an axe to grind regarding how math gets taught. I’m just intrigued that they actually tested the theory. It reminds me of other theories that have clear and testable sociological implications. Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody actually did research to these to see if these are true:

  • Intelligent Design is a science-stopper: if you can say “God did it,” you’ll give up doing research in the natural world.
  • Raising children as Christians is child abuse.

But wait a moment: there already is research on that second one.

Do you have any other similar examples of ideas that need sociological research?

2 thoughts on “Study Suggests Math Teachers Scrap Balls and Slices – New York Times

  1. Here’s another theory in the form of a question that needs sociological study: is the progress of science hindered by young students not to study biology unless they want PZ Myers-style steel-toed boots and hammers attacking their beliefs?

    Corollary: how much of the well-documented atheism in biology departments is a result of a selection effect like this?

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