[IAEP] reconstructed maths

Albert Cahalan acahalan at gmail.com
Tue Jul 22 12:35:40 EDT 2008

On Mon, Jul 21, 2008 at 10:08 PM, Bill Kerr <billkerr at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Thu, Jul 17, 2008 at 7:16 PM, Albert Cahalan <acahalan at gmail.com> wrote:

> misunderstandings and misrepresentations aside, I'd raise this point
> in response - your assumption is that a large scale study is more
> important than the individual research and findings of one person
> I don't see why this assumption should necessarily be true - ie.
> historically it has been shown many times that lone individuals or
> small groups have turned out to be correct and the predominant or
> mainstream way of doing things has eventually been displaced - that
> is the nature of scientific revolutions

I agree, but this doesn't help constructionism one bit. If anything,
constructionism is the predominant or mainstream way of doing things
in teacher's colleges. Don't compare "large scale study" against
"lone individuals or small groups"; this is apples and oranges.
Compare "large scale study" against the complete lack of evidence
that constructionism works in real classrooms with real teachers
and real students.

There are numerous smaller and less formal studies in support of
non-constructionist methods. Typically an underperforming school
will switch methods (new leadership or parents nearly rioting) and
the math performance will go way up.

I found neither size of study in support of constructionism.
Constructionist web sites are totally quiet on this issue.
I thought this to be odd. After all, if you have such a great
idea, surely you'd gather evidence in support of it. I was left
with an uneasy feeling about the whole thing. I then stumbled
across the opposition while researching something else, and woah!
I see real evidence! It's really refreshing to see solid numbers.
There are studies both large and small. The largest one is of
course most impressive, being the biggest educational study ever,
but there is no lack of smaller and less formal ones.

> it could be that whole systems have been built and maintained for
> generations on principles of direct instruction - that various
> challenges to this have arisen and been trialled, some good,
> some not so good - but throughout this process the predominant
> form of teaching has remained direct instruction
> it seems to me that in a system that has evolved in that way, that
> due to forces of inertia and group think mainstream studies would
> tend to show that mainstream ways of doing things are the "best way"

Project Follow Through's data was analysed by two independent groups.
Since math was the topic (a favorite for constructionists), there was
little room for interpretation: did the students learn math?

> Piaget did many studies and wrote many books and papers based on
> the study of 3 children - that does not in itself make him wrong.
> He might be wrong but I can see many advantages of doing in depth
> studies based on a small group.

That's an interesting prototype, but nearly any teaching method
will work great in a tutoring environment with a fanatical teacher.
The next appropriate step is to try it out in a full classroom, then
in several classrooms with typical grade school teachers. Much more
than that has been done for constructionism already, and it failed.
When you have a proven failure, you need to stop.

> I would like to discuss this issue more, just raising it here in
> simple form --> minority views are not wrong because they are
> minority views

Right, they are wrong just because they are **WRONG**. :-)
Remember that constructionism is, at least in the teaching
colleges, the majority view. You probably won't graduate
unless you at least pay lip service to it. It's a political
correctness of the teaching profession. (one of many...)

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