I’ve been reflecting on something I was told in a meeting. Essentially the person’s assertion was that computation is not important. Essentially we’re not teaching arithmetic, we’re teaching mathematics. OK, whatever you say.
However, I’ve analyzed tests and test answers. Quite frankly the answer choices are generally gleened from a pool of incorrect answers. You look for common mistakes and then add them as answers. You not only have to know HOW to do the problem, but you also have to do your calculations correctly. Anything less ends up in error.
The person in question also said that NO ONE ever does this stuff by hand anyway. You always rely on a machine. I pointed out that my mom used to work for an insurance company. She analyzed output from the computer to make sure the calculations it was running were correct. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, people will be asked to check the output. Unless, of course, we’re talking about all those companies that tanked. Then I think we should take a bunch of accountants to task. Machines are only as good as their output. Why wouldn’t you check?
Better yet, it machines are always going to do the work, why take any math class? Why bother? Yet, as a country we are pushing math and science because they are IMPORTANT. Not according to this wonk they aren’t. Besides, math isn’t numbers. Which means science isn’t either. Do you really want to take that drug now? Who ran their tests, calculated their data, and drove their decisions? Doesn’t it make you a little afraid that there is no verification process?
The other thing I realized, is that the person running the analysis is afraid of math and numbers. Oh my. So this is the person helping make and guide our decisions? You’re going to set policy on that? I wouldn’t, but I’m that way.
Finally, the whole meeting hinged on our having only this one little problem. Again, you know reality got in the way. They pulled the wrong data. Therefore, they made the wrong conclusions. Therefore, we shouldn’t have gone there. But… we did. I fail to see how this is better than what we used to do.
There’s lies, damned lies, and statistics. There’s never let reality get in the way of a good theory. Then there are lies, damned lies, and statistics based on stupidity, greed, hidden agendas, and laziness. Nice. That makes for educational improvement all right.