Instant Update

While I was checking the links for the previous post, I came upon this PDF file: “An Argument for Using a Function Approach When Teaching Remedial Algebra/Algebra”, by Edward D. Laughbaum (draft of July 9, 2007). It would be difficult to parody. He seems to believe, for example, that dropping occasional references to brain physiology (“synaptic strength” or “neural nets”) actually helps to justify his wild assumptions about how learning takes place. Mr. Person of Text Savvy has devoted several recent posts to discussing “The Wason Selection Task”, an experiment that shows how badly “real world” reasoning abilities translate into formal reasoning abilities. Calculator salespeople like Mr. Laughbaum cannot make this natural fact go away with any number of gadgets or “implementation module”s. When you’ve spent hours teaching a class how to talk about “function behaviors” observed on a calculator, they’ll typically have learned almost nothing about how to read a math book. I’ve tried it, so I know.


  1. “Remedial Algebra/Algebra” really is in the title!
    it should probably be pronounced
    “remedial algebra modulo algebra”
    to indicate, as it were, algebra sans algebra.

  2. while i’m ragging on the title: scarequotes
    would be appropriate pretty much anywhere,
    an “argument” for using a function approach
    when “teaching” remedial algebra
    an argument for using a “function” approach
    when teaching remedial “algebra” …

    i do not think that word means what you think it means.

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