The art of making mathematicians

Posted by Domenico, Uncategorized on Nov 29, 2015

I am still of the opinion that implementing Salman Khan’s blended learning into mainstream teaching could bring some benefits. Although, I now believe that Pershan has raised some good points. If this is how schools are going to look tomorrow, maybe it would be better if Khan Academy resembled more the kind of teaching of countries such as Japan, South Korea or Finland where education is very effective, rather than mirroring the watch-and-practice approach that might have made academic results so poor amongst students in USA.


There are massive differences between the ways in which mathematics is taught all over the world. Struggling with conceptual problems seems to be the key to get smarter in those countries that are ranked high. Are subject knowledge and quality of instruction also relevant in these countries?


There might be other variables that influence the teaching and, so far, I have not seen much attention focused on the learning. Students who have experience of attending schools in different countries such as Japan and USA might shed new lights on this topic. For instance, the Japanese might encourage their children to learn mathematics whereas the Americans might perceive it as less appealing, despite their massive investments in education.


I really enjoyed Blair’s introduction on inquiry teaching. It is very captivating and I would like to know more about it.


Some have raised the point that, it would not be possible to have real independent learning and an established curriculum at the same time. I agree, it seems inconceivable to me too, that mathematics lessons could reach a level in which students raise their own questions, structure their own inquiries and find solutions unknown to the teacher. In some way, for instance according to Vygotsky, a curriculum is necessary because, it represents a sort of rite of passage, being at the same time an idea towards which children should aim at and the end of their ‘final’ development. However, in my opinion the risk is that, if we define the curriculum as an ideal type then, for its very nature, it can not be fully reached. On the same note, do they have a national curriculum in Japan, South Korea or Finland?


I believe that, my freedom of choosing the way I want to teach is limited by statutory standards and it is also obvious that inquiry teaching requires additional training. According to Blair, students would be developing metacognitive skills, such as monitoring and regulating thinking, that are necessary to learn autonomously. It sounds like this is the right way to educate patient problem solvers.


If devolution of authority towards the students is the price to pay to promote aesthetics in class, I would not mind giving up the ex cathedra teaching style to sustain serendipity. Children are naturally curious and creative. While on one hand, education has become more strictly and rigidly entangled with the necessities of our society, on the other hand, education and human development, perhaps, have never been so distant between them.


  1. Stephen
    3 December 2015

    Very interesting piece Dom. I was extremely disappointed that the only example of teaching that was shown was that of Japan. We do not know if that is how students are taught regularly there. It would be challenging to use the method demonstrated to introduce a new topic. Equally we are left to assume that the methods used in the other countries with successful programmes operate the same way however it would be interesting to see if for example Finland has a system that may be more similar to the style we are used to. Was the video selected as it showed a large contrast to the traditional style we are used to?

  2. pepsmccrea
    7 December 2015

    Some great questions raised here, and exploration of the various factors at play. I think there is scope for you to take a deeper approach to looking at both the pros and cons of the ideas presented in an effort to reach a measured conclusion.

    Your last line is amazing!

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