Pedagogy

Who Moved My Postulate?

Last time we looked at the question of why we have to have postulates, which are not proved, rather than being able to prove everything. Often, this question is mixed together with a different question: Why do different texts give different lists of postulates, so that what one calls a postulate, another calls a theorem? …

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Mean, Median, Mode: Which is Best?

It seems common for teachers to ask students which “measure of central tendency” (average) is best. Sometimes they ask this in a particular context (say, to report the “average” salary at a company); other times there is no context (other than perhaps some unidentified data). In the latter case, we generally consider the question to …

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Why We Care About “Why”

(Archive question of the week) One day back in November, as I entered the community college where I teach, a man came in behind me with his son, probably about 3 years old. It was the first snowy day of the year, and the father stood on the mat wiping his feet, while the little …

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Dividing Right to Left, Adding Left to Right

I now want to start looking more deeply at some specific questions at various levels, starting with arithmetic, then algebra and geometry. Students learning arithmetic (and their parents) tend to think in terms of following some rote procedure, just because “that’s the way it’s done”. Modern educators try to focus more on deep understanding, so …

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