Another dot in the blogosphere?

What was the point?

Posted on: August 21, 2019

Video source

This video pit students against teachers in a mathematics test. But what was the point?

Neither party did well, so was the message about the state of mathematics learning was in the US? The PISA findings already told us that.

Was the point that test-worthy mathematics was not relevant to both schooling teens and working adults? If you collect enough anecdotes it becomes data. If you analyse that data, you might come to the same conclusion.

Was Buzzfeeed reaching for low-hanging fruit (we hate mathematics but we want to feel good about it) so it made a video to ingratiate itself and its audience? It’s Buzzfeed — that is their modus operandi.

The subtle point is that nuance is difficult and undesired. It is hard to show that mathematical thinking (not just going through the motions of using formulae) is what is important.

An academic test is just that — it results in a score to sort and possibly remediate before subjecting the student to another test. But passing a test does not guarantee that the student has mastered mathematical thinking. Passing a test shows that the student is good at taking tests.

Trying to showcase such nuance does not make for good viewing. Reality TV and video producers focus on the heightened or controversial for entertainment. Educators on the other hand need to look at the everyday and mundane to make mathematics relevant. Sadly, such videos do not have as many hits as Buzzfeed ones.

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