Written from the perspectie of an AS Maths/Further Maths student.

]]>Yes, it is. If you learn math by memorizing formulas and applying them over and over, you’re not ever going to understand anything. You’re not going to have a sudden epiphany one day. Read your textbook. Although most high school textbooks are absolu…

]]>Saving this one for later. ]]>

Or perhaps when the examiners stop testing a concept, the students are not eager to learn the concept, and eventually the teachers stop teaching the concept.

The cycle gets more vicious when the generation of students become the generation of teachers …

… until the examiners start testing the concept again.

]]>There are people who do maths with me who still do not know many simple concepts so it is not necessarily a reflection on teaching style but could be lack of deep understanding of maths. Also lots of people doing maths A level in my year are doing it to pursue other careers such as medicine and not maths. Therefore, it is better for other careers just to know how to apply lots of concepts and not to deeply understand much fewer concepts. For lots of people (not me) maths is just a stepping stone and I don’t think people like this should be forced to understand every mathematical equation.

]]>Well I did say right at the start that a generalization from a sample of 1 should be treated with caution. Also, when it became clear that this student didn’t know what I meant by “from first principles” I immediately rephrased the question, so I don’t think his saying that the derivative of was and then being unable to see what was wrong with it can be explained by any lack of clarity in what I was asking. I asked, “How would you work out the derivative of ?” Is that unclear in some way that I cannot see? And, as I said in the post, it seems that he *had* been shown how to differentiate from first principles: the problem was not that he hadn’t been shown it but that he had been told that he didn’t need to know it for the exams, which he took as an invitation to forget about it.

Hi Andreas,

I totally agree with your statement

“So I guess my point is that while it is possible that your young friend has been badly taught, it is more likely that the teacher did what she had to do in order to get the majority of ordinary students through the exam with decent grades”.

Teaching proofs/first principles and assesing students on these aspects would mean fewer good grades at the end of the day and our society or at least the powers that be decided that we should not go along such paths.

]]>I think it would be interesting to try developing an understanding of derivatives and functions from more tangible experiences first, and then moving into the abstract symbols.

For example, have students measure their displacement and their velocity for a variety of fairly simple motions, and then look for comparisons and patterns between the two sets of data (perhaps by graphing them), and then use these observations to build a inductive understanding of the relationship between distance functions and velocity functions, and then extend this understanding to a variety of different functions AND then talk about secant lines, etc…

Even if you skip the notation, the idea of the secant line converging to a tangent line is completely accessible to students, especially if you use numerical examples.

As for students who do not understand graphs at all, I developed this tool to help jump start classroom discussions: http://davidwees.com/graphgame/

]]>Many insightful points on A-level Math. In some Junior Colleges there are close to 100% students scoring distinction in A-level Math just to show that either the exams papers is too easy or students are too smart to spot questions from past-year papers and drill to score perfect marks. Do the students learn the real math to prepare them for university education? ]]>

I see. No email address indicated in the comment.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

I’m afraid that’s a spam comment rather than something I wrote. I hope it doesn’t mean that this blog has been hacked into. Does the commenter provide an email address?

Nevertheless, thank you for your contributions to this discussion, and your blog looks nice.

]]>You are welcome to visit my blog tomcircle.wordpress.com, I would be honored if you find any idea useful to you.

Best regards,

Cornelius Goh

On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 2:32 AM, Gowers’s Weblog wrote:

> ** > this website commented: “Hi, i think that i saw you visited my website > thus i came to “return the favor”. I am trying to find things to enhance my > web site! I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!” >

]]>… by drilling mechanically.

Another observation of A-level Calculus teaching, it never teaches students to be rigorous. Before applying all kinds of techniques to integrate, first check the domain of definition in which whether the function is defined? continuous? If the function is not continuous, then integration stops because it is not integratable over that domain (or interval).

In French lycÃ©es Baccalaureat, this rigorous practice is very much emphasized. When I was a student then in France, the professor yelled at me because I started straight to integrate without the prior check of integratability over the domain of definition and continuity.

Thanks a bunch! Appreciate it.

]]>Hi Edward!

These are interesting questions, indeed. Are you aware of the “Ask NRICH” bulletin board at nrich.maths.org? That is a forum on which questions like this can be discussed – I do recommend that you post your question there, and you’ll get a series of good answers.

Julian

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