Adonis Diaries

Learning paradigm for our survival: Reforming language and math teaching…

Posted on: November 9, 2009

Learning paradigm for our survival; (Nov. 9, 2009)

Einstein, the great theoretical physicist, confessed that most theoretical scientists are constantly uneasy until they discover, from their personal experiences, natural correspondences with their abstract models.  I am not sure if this uneasiness is alive before or after a mathematician is an expert professional. 

For example, mathematicians learn Riemann’s metrics in four-dimensional spaces and solve the corresponding problems. How many of them were briefed that this abstract construct, which was invented two decades before relativity, was to be used as foundation for modern science? Would these kinds of knowledge make a difference in the long run for professional mathematicians?

During the construction of theoretical (mathematical) models, experimental data contribute to revising models to taking into account real facts that do not match previous paradigms. I got into thinking: If mathematicians receive scientific experimental training at the university and are exposed to various scientific fields, they might become better mathematicians by getting aware of the scientific problems and be capable of interpreting purely mathematical models to corresponding natural or social phenomenon that are defying comprehension.

By the way, I am interested to know if there are special search engines for mathematical concepts and models that can be matched to those used in fields of sciences.  By now, it would be absurd if no projects have worked on sorting out the purely mathematical models and theories that are currently applied in sciences.

I got this revelation.  Schools use different methods for comprehending languages and natural sciences.  Kids are taught the alphabet, words, syntax, grammars, spelling and then much later are asked to compose essays.  Why this process is not applied in learning natural sciences?  

Why students learning math are not asked to write essays on how formulas and equations they had learned apply to natural or social realities?

I have strong disagreement on the pedagogy of learning languages:

First, we know that children learn to talk years before they can read. Why then kids are not encouraged to tell verbal stories before they can read?  Why kids’ stories are not recorded and translated into the written words to encourage the kids into realizing that what they read is indeed another story telling medium?

Second, we know that kids have excellent capabilities to memorize verbally and visually entire short sentences before they understand the fundamentals. Why don’t we develop their cognitive abilities before we force upon them the traditional malignant methodology?  The proven outcomes are that kids are devoid of verbal intelligence, hate to read, and would not attempt to write, even after they graduate from universities.

Arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and math are used as the foundations for learning natural sciences. The Moslem scientist and mathematician Ibn Al Haitham set the foundation for required math learning, in the year 850, if we are to study physics and sciences. Al  Haitham said that it is almost impossible to do science without strong math background. 

Ibn Al Haitham wrote math equations to describe the cosmos and its movement over 9 centuries before Kepler emulated Ibn Al Haitham’s analysis. Currently, Kepler is taunted as the discoverer of modern astronomy science.

We learn to manipulate equations; we then are asked to solve examples and problems by finding the proper equations that correspond to the natural problem (actually, we are trained to memorize the appropriate equations that apply to the problem given!).  Why we are not trained to compose a story that corresponds to an equation, or set of equations (model)?

If kids are asked to compose essays as the final outcome of learning languages, why students are not trained to compose the natural phenomena from given set of equations? Would not that be the proper meaning for comprehending the physical world or even the world connected with human behavior? 

Would not the skill of modeling a system be more meaningful and straightforward after we learn to compose a world from a model or set of equations?  Consequently, scientists and engineers, by researching natural phenomena and man-made systems that correspond to the mathematical models, would be challenged to learn about natural phenomena. Thus, their modeling abilities would be enhanced, more valid, and more instructive!

If mathematicians are trained to compose or view the appropriate natural phenomenon and human behavior from equations and mathematical models, then the scientific communities in natural and human sciences would be far richer in quality and quantity.

Our survival needs mathematicians to be members of scientific teams.  This required inclusion would be the best pragmatic means into reforming math and sciences teaching programs.

Note: This post is a revised version of “Oh, and I hate math: Alternative teaching methods (February 8, 2009)”.

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November 2009

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