Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

February 20, 2008

Stories of Legotown

Filed under: culture, Education — codesmithy @ 9:39 am

Rethinking Schools Online has a story on “Why We Banned Legos: Exploring power, ownership, and equity in an early childhood classroom.” The piece is rather interesting in that it has kids explore the nature of power, that is a complex subject in itself. It is hard to tell how much the children internalized the lessons compared to the teachers projecting them onto the students. Although, my favorite part of the article is where kids pick out blocks, some find out that they won, and therefore get to make the new rules. Watching the kids behave gives us insights into larger social dynamics, because the children have not built up the vast network of rationalizations and disguises we have as adults. Although, we already see the beginning of such rationalizations of status. An objective argument probably isn’t as persuasive as a simple role reversal. Unfortunately, it is hard to see that type of retrospective behavior ingrained outside an elementary school setting.

While we are on the topic of education, certain parents are rebelling against a new approach to math. The new approach seems to center around understanding numbers and their properties rather than standard elementary school rote and speed drilling that I was accustomed too growing up. The main complaint seems to be parents are unable to help their children with their homework. Heavens forbid little Jimmy actually has to think for himself without help from Dad and their work reflects little Jimmy’s mastery of the material rather than his parents. The essential difference is math as memorization of 1..9 x 1..9 and three number addition as opposed to breaking say, 23 x 5 into (20 + 3) x 5 =20 x 5 + 3 x 5 = 100 + 15 = 115. In the rote method, there is simply an algorithm, you either get it right or you don’t. With the “Investigations” approach, students are better prepared for algebra. Part of the reason for the shift is technology. Computers are better at running algorithms than humans are, so the emphasis shifts from applying the algorithm (which is the essence of the rote method, and merely hope some deeper understanding sinks in), or try to get children to have a deeper understanding of the numbers and be able to check their work multiple ways. For example, with the 23 x 5 they could do (30-7)x5 = 30 x 5 – 7 x 5 = 150 – 35 = 115.

However, this is a country where evolution is still controversial. So, I guess changing math may be a bridge too near for some.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] is a bias in the media, however it is not those of the individual reporters.  It is the system.  Much like the children of Legotown, the reporters don’t question how the rules of the game are made.  If they did, they would […]

    Pingback by Orwell Rolls in His Grave « Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind — February 24, 2008 @ 11:31 am


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