In my previous post I mentioned how we felt our initial research ideas inadequate towards the end of our M.Ed orientation, though no new idea forth came to replace it.
On every day, during orientation, our routine was to attend talks and lectures in succession, from 8 to 8. They were at different venues separated by long walks.
The talks and the lectures were interesting and informative. They dealt with among other things, the ideologies and the methodologies that dictated the classroom practices in mathematics, throughout the world for more than half a century. Some of those methodologies were reactionary in the sense that they questioned their predecessors’ views and practices and paved ways for replacing the old with the new. The notion that those kinds of replacement were happening was news to me.
The methodologies of classroom teaching in mathematics depend on what is the philosophy of education and of mathematics.
If the guiding philosophy has a problem, it affects the class room practices, which in turn affects the society, because the kind of learners coming out of the classrooms constitute the society. This is the case in both the developing and the developed countries. The developed countries were economically and technically more advanced. I have mentioned in my previous post that they, mainly Britain and America, were in the forefront for doing research and were considered the leaders in education and mathematics education in particular. So, whatever was practiced in their classrooms was considered the best. Other nations that could not afford or were not interested in doing their own researches simply adopted them. Some Asian and African countries belonged to that group. As post–colonial nations they had no option than adopting the educational theories imposed on them by their previous masters. It had hidden political and economical motives too.
At that junction, I began to re-evaluate my thoughts on my learners’ difficulties in geometry; even if it was caused by their skewed visual sense and logic, there were more to that. What was the philosophy that guided the teaching methodologies in their classrooms?
What was happening in the American classrooms?
How ever, the esteemed positions of the developed nations in mathematics education came under scrutiny when the American children were rated low in the International mathematics competitions
”Students from the United States (the country that has purportedly led the way in school mathematics reform) were rated near the bottom in a comparison of mathematics achievement involving students from twelve industrialized countries” (Scott, 1972, 23).
By ‘school mathematics reform’ Scott meant the major curriculum changes introduced in mathematics education in the US towards the middle part of the nineteenth century. It was known as ‘the new mathematics curriculum’.
What was wrong with the ‘new mathematics’?