Teaching python (programming) to children

Laura Creighton lac at strakt.com
Sat Nov 10 17:33:25 CET 2001


Sheila King:
> I don't see why this "circle" would bother any classroom practitioner at
> all. Because teachers really do get to decide what they want to do, to a
> large extent, when they go into their classroom with their students and
> close the door.

I have a problem. I can't pick the _students_ that come into my
classroom.  And wherever I have come across a student that learned
calculus from the graphing-calculator school, I have found somebody
who does not understand, really understand, what 'this function is
increasing' _means_.  They are incapable of doing their own visualization
of that.  Fortunately for me, I don't run into these people that often.
But they are crippled, so much that it shows.  It is evident in trying
to have the simplest of conversations with them.  They have little or 
no mathematical intuition at all.

So either a) the method is bad, and cripples minds (period)  or
b) the method, if not taught according to some vigorous standard and
in conjunction with some other methods, cripples minds (or doesn't
allow them to expand properly).  (For purpose of argument only I am 
willing to believe that _somewhere_ it is working.)

If the second is the case, then high school teachers must not be
allowed to pick and chose what to do, because with the best intentions
in the world they will produce a program that will produce people are
mathematically naive.  Which is my experience.  We have people who
never made the leap from arithmetic to mathematics.  They are human
calculators, tied to machine calculators, but have no mathematical
intuition whatsoever, and a great difficulty in thinking abstractly.
It is frightening.  They do get correct answers, as long as their
calculators have batteries, but they can't understand them.

One must never design educational policy thinking only how the best 
teachers will educate the most exceptional students (exceptionally
good or exceptionally poor.)  The policy must instead focus on the 
worst third of teachers.  This is hard on the gifted teacher, indeed, 
but the alternative is hard on _everybody_.

Laura Creighton





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