[Edu-sig] Now I went and did it

Kirby Urner pdx4d@teleport.com
Sun, 08 Oct 2000 15:03:35 -0700

>It was interesting to me that Stephen Figgins' take on Kirby's curriculum in 
>some way re-iterated my own.  Its elementary programming, elementary math,
>advanced geometry.  Doesn't seem advanced to Kirby because he understands
>But I am convinced he is starting in the middle of the geometry story, and 
>folks, especially young folks, have no way to follow him there. Its almost
>if he is asking to be taken on faith. I think it is holding back
acceptance of
>his curriculum - but again I've told him that already.   

Yes, I pretty much concur with this analysis.

Using the analogy from my "ET Math" post [a], I've done two things at once: 

1. introduced a lot of Python into the K-12 math context, which 
   isn't a new idea in principle (even if doing this with Python 
   in particular is somewhat new) AND

2. I've gone through one of those "ET Math" portals into an alternative
   reality, such that some of the geometry especially comes across 
   as unfamiliar, exotic, even extraterrestrial in flavor.

One explanation for #2 is that, in my view, part of why it's such an 
uphill battle to get even #1 off the ground ("math through programming") 
is that we've become severely overspecialized, compartmented, fragmented 
in our approach to content.  The system puts a premium on everyone being 
a "purist" or "specialist" of one kind or another.  

But I'm more in favor of the rampant hybridization or mongrelization among 
the disciplines (partly why I like Python -- it incorporates a lot of good 
ideas from numerous language traditions -- and without degenerating into 
a kludgely hodge-podge IMO).

So the geometry I favor (my brand of "ET Math") ties back to a philosophy 
that is resolutely cross-disciplinary in outlook.  Plus I think in the 
long run this will work to my advantage, because it addresses a real 
short-coming in current curriculum writing (one which a lot of kids sense, 
even if they can't really articulate the problem).  

In short, I'm willing to trade short-term non-acceptance for longer-term 
revectoring in a more promising direction.  Although I feel in a minority
in this respect, I don't feel entirely alone.  I have enough of a network
to see this as a viable strategy with reasonable prospects for success.


[a] http://www.python.org/pipermail/edu-sig/2000-October/000698.html

PS:  for an overview of my approach to math ed, check out my 3-part
essay on mathpolemica: