Archive for June 2, 2017

We need a greater variety of CS teaching methods: The Way We Teach Math Is Holding Women Back

As I often do, I was trying to convince my colleagues that there is no “Geek Gene.”  One of them agreed that there is no Geek Gene.  But still…some people can’t learn CS, he insisted.  He pointed out that some people take a class “6-8 times to pass it.”

That got me thinking about the evidence he offered.  If someone takes the same course six times and can’t pass, does that mean that the student can’t learn CS?

Or maybe it proves that we’re insane, if Einstein’s famous quote is right (“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”)  If the problem is our teaching and learning methods, simply repeating the exact same methods six times is not going to work.  Think about in terms of teaching reading.  We recognize that we need a variety of methods for teaching reading.  Having a dyslexic person take the exact same mainstream class six times will simply not work.

Why we are so resistant (as in the mathematics story linked below) to consider alternative teaching methods in CS?

The irony of the widespread emphasis on speed in math classrooms, with damaging timed tests given to students from an early age, is that some of the world’s most successful mathematicians describe themselves as slow thinkers. In his autobiography, Laurent Schwartz, winner of the world’s highest award in mathematics, described feeling “stupid” in school because he was a slow thinker. “I was always deeply uncertain about my own intellectual capacity; I thought I was unintelligent,” he wrote. “And it is true that I was, and still am, rather slow. I need time to seize things because I always need to understand them fully.”

When students struggle in speed-driven math classes, they often believe the problem lies within themselves, not realizing that fast-paced lecturing is a faulty teaching method. The students most likely to internalize the problem are women and students of color. This is one of the main reasons that these students choose not to go forward in mathematics and other STEM subjects, and likely why a study found that in 2011, 74% of the STEM workforce was male and 71% was white.

Source: Jo Boaler on Women in STEM, Ivanka Trump and Betsy DeVos – Motto

June 2, 2017 at 7:00 am 4 comments


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