Before I get to the titular topic, let me share some links. I’ve been meaning to post links to a couple of online resources that are astonishingly thorough. I strongly encourage you to check all these out.
- Drexel Math Forum — This site has been around for years, I’m just getting around to posting about it now. But if you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it. Almost any math question high school students could asked has been answered and cataloged on this site (including misconceptions about asymptotes like I posted about the other day).
- Interact Math — When you first link to this page you’ll be unimpressed. But select a book from the drop down menu and then pick a chapter and set of exercises. Then, click on an exercise and prepare to take an interactive tour of that problem. The site let’s you graph lines, type math equations, do multiple choice problems, and more. If you have trouble with the problem, it will interactively walk you through each step, asking you simpler questions along the way. What a fantastic resource! Unfortunately, almost none of our books are on the drop down list. That doesn’t keep it from being useful. Just find problems similar to what you’re struggling with and try those.
- Khan Academy — A nonprofit organization started by Sal Khan, this site has 1800+ youtube instructional videos, nicely organized by course and topic. You can go learn everything from basic arithmetic to college level Calculus (and Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, Statistics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Economics…). Sal’s mission is to provide a world class education to anyone in the world for free. It’s very exciting to see how this site will grow, and possibly change how we do education.
Math Teaching by Video
Some of these sites, especially the Khan Academy, make me wonder how long our modern American school system will remain in its present form. Will we always have a teacher in the front of the math classroom delivering instruction?
I’m not afraid of the idea that we (teachers) could be partially replaced by video lessons. It’s actually a pretty good idea. The very best instructional practices could be incorporated into a flawlessly edited video. Teachers wouldn’t make frustrating, careless mistakes, students could replay the videos at any time, and substitute teachers could easily run the class. Every school, even the poorest and most marginalized would be able to deliver top-notch, world class instruction.
And what would teachers do, then? Qualified teachers could turn their efforts toward more of “coaching” and “discussion leading” role, concentrating on one-on-one sessions, remediation, reteaching, providing feedback, grading, seminars, open forums, field trips, and inquiry-based instruction that supplements the more formal video presentations. And don’t forget blogging! So much of a teacher’s time is currently spent preparing lessons and teaching them that they have very little time for all those other (more?) important aspects of teaching. All this time devoted to preparation is being spent by teachers everywhere. Imagine the possibilities if we devoted the bulk of our time to these other aspects instead of preparing instruction. Sounds really great to me.