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Textbooks, Testing, Training

Textbooks, Testing, Training: How We Discourage Thinking

Stephen S. Willoughby
Series: Spectrum
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 64
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  • Book Info
    Textbooks, Testing, Training
    Book Description:

    Willoughby's essay is a gem. It should be in the hands of every young teacher. I wish that I had read it many years ago. I have no doubt that many of his observations and the information he imparts will remain with me for a while. I certainly hope so. A collection of reminiscences from other teachers with their valuable insights and experiences (who could write with such expertise as he does) would make a fine addition to the education literature. — James Tattersall, Providence College Stephen S. Willoughby has taught mathematics for 59 years and he has seen everything. Some of it has annoyed him, some has inspired him. This little book is something of a valedictory and he shares some parting thoughts as he contemplates the end of his teaching career. Willoughby has strong, cogent and mostly negative opinions about textbooks, standardized testing, and teacher training. These opinions have been forged in the cauldron of the classroom of a deeply caring teacher. They might not please you, but they ought to make you think. They should spark needed debate in our community. Ultimately this is a human tale with rough parallels to Hardy's Apology; replace "Mathematician's" with "Teacher's" perhaps. Every teacher will sympathize with Willoughby's frustrations and empathize with the humanity and compassion that animated his life's work and that beat at the center of this book.

    eISBN: 978-1-61444-803-7
    Subjects: Mathematics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    The ability to read and do arithmetic are certainly important both to the individual and to the society in which the person lives. However, I maintain, and have always believed, that the ability and desire to think are even more important both to individuals and to society. Thinking is a basic skill. What good does it do us to be able to read if we don’t think about what we read? What good does it do us to be able to do arithmetic if we can’t decide when arithmetic is desirable or decide what the results of the arithmetic mean?...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Textbooks
    (pp. 3-16)

    It was 6:00 PM on a school day and I had finished coaching the junior high volleyball team. Bill and I were the last two people to leave the gym. As the door slammed shut behind me I realized that it was snowing and cold outside and I had left my coat in my classroom at the far end of the building. Everybody else would have left the building by that time and I had no key for the outside doors. There was no way to get back into the school to get my coat. As I stood there shivering...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Tests
    (pp. 17-30)

    Mr. Bella, the principal of the high school in Connecticut where I was teaching, approached me one day and said, “Starting next week, you are going to be teaching the College Board Review course.” I asked what that was. Where I went to school, in Wisconsin, we just went down to a local high school and took the tests one Saturday morning. As far as I know, nobody did anything to prepare for them.

    After he explained the course and its purpose, I said, “Oh, you want me to teach them how to get a better grade on the College...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Teachers
    (pp. 31-46)

    As I started my third year of college, I realized I had enough credits to graduate at the end of the year. I mentioned that to Garrett Birkhoff, the mathematics department head, and also told him that I intended to become a school teacher. Professor Birkhoff had been my first-semester calculus teacher and believed I was very good in mathematics. He had always been very friendly. He said I didn’t have to teach school, the department would support me with scholarships all the way through to my PhD.

    After about ten or fifteen minutes of discussion, I managed to convince...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Conclusion
    (pp. 47-52)

    In 1981, as the new President-Elect of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), I tried to get the Council to create a set of standards to counteract the back-to-basics movement that was popular at the time. I hoped that we would argue for much broader goals including creativity, thinking mathematically, mental fluency, estimation skills, working on mathematical projects in which the students were interested, and so on, as well as traditional basic skills. I also wanted the NCTM to begin a Master Teacher program in which certified master teachers would visit schools of Master Teacher candidates who had...

  9. Index
    (pp. 53-54)
  10. About the Author
    (pp. 55-55)