Thursday, May 17, 2007
Chris Kaufman
Article 6?

Article: Christian Science Monitor

Expand the pool of America's future scientists

Public schools must improve in order to engage more minority students in the sciences.

By Andrew J. Rotherham and Kevin Carey

As I accept my failure in Calculus, I realized why America is failing ( to compete in math and science. The fact remains in mathematics as in other schools of higher learning we have departmentalized these institutions to such an extent that science has lost much of its creative force and art departments have lost a lot of their scientific relevancy. It is not the lack of good teachers in minority schools that reveal the facts that Rotherham and Carey declare. It is our society approach that shows a problem across the board of education and its approach.

Yet before I rant about Film schools that won't let you touch a camera ( until you get a PhD in cinematic studies. I am going to focus on Mathematics.

Math is a language, an amazing language that paints by numbers. Like the books of clown faces, galloping horses, and county side cottages with thousands of tiny numbers. It is a language and should be taught as a French, German or Italian is taught. It should be taught for the purpose to be used in situations that require precision and accuracy. "Where is the train station" needs to be precise. Where English or French approach precision, math provides the precise language to describe any object moving or not within the smallest degree possible. Something is small in English, but 1.2 X 10^-32 is more accurate and leaves even our best words like tiny in the dust.

Math is not a set of symbols to recognize specific operations to manipulate more symbols, so that after a series of more symbolic tricks we get less symbols. It is not a set of exercises to recognize rational equations to reduce to simplest means for fun and profit. Nor was Calculus created to test your memory of tangent and cosine functions as a value approaches a limit.

Yet that is what is taught. Newton did not develop Calculus to test someone's skill in applying algebraic functions that are to be tested with specific definitions or theorems. Rather he created it, to model the universe ( But you would be hard pressed to find a professor to teach the modeling of any environment with math using calculus as a tool. In fact I doubt you could find it at all. Unless you are not in a math class, and I am sure then in Astro-Physics it will appear. And I know of so many horror stories of students that loved science only to die in advanced classes due to weak math skills.

This not to say practice of using polynomial rational equations is not needed. Obviously it is, you can't model motion or many other phenomenons without them. Yet...


No one will tell you, why because the man or woman teaching math has little idea what it means. Not to say they do not know what a limit of a function is, but rather what in the world it represents. Is it the growth of a virus? Is it the economic cycle of a third world nation? Is it the feedback from two gears shifting?

But that, that right there requires some of that right brain stuff. That part of the emotional and gestalt part that you would be hard pressed to find from a mathematics professor. Imagine a math professor with emotion or passion; I can't seem to remember a single one. I am sure they exist, a few rare weird apples...

Why what happens? Why there are right brains so under utilized? Let's take a look at the differences:

Right Hemisphere Style


  • Responds to verbal instructions
  • Problem solves by logically and sequentially looking at the parts of things
  • Looks at differences
  • Is planned and structured
  • Prefers established, certain information
  • Prefers talking and writing
  • Prefers multiple choice tests
  • Controls feelings
  • Prefers ranked authority structures


  • Is a splitter: distinction important
  • Is logical, sees cause and effect

---Draws on previously accumulated, organized information

Left Hemisphere Style


  • Responds to demonstrated instructions
  • Problem solves with hunches, looking for patterns and configurations
  • Looks at similarities
  • Is fluid and spontaneous
  • Prefers elusive, uncertain information
  • Prefers drawing and manipulating objects
  • Prefers open ended questions
  • Free with feelings
  • Prefers collegial authority structures


  • Is a lumpier: connectedness important
  • Is analogical, sees correspondences, resemblances

---Draws on unbounded qualitative patterns that are not organized into sequences, but that cluster around images

Imagine a math class that had used feelings to illustrate time critical problems as drawings that fit patterns, and all variables were real life objects as if x or y were not just variables but actually stood for something like a out of control spaceship or a deadly virus, and imagine a teacher asking how do we get to off Mars before our oxygen runs out? Or how can we slow the rate of growth of a deadly strain of bacteria to save a population?

But so far I have not seen a college math teacher capable of any of these qualities. Yet why do I care?, what could my reasoning be, I should just shut up and learn the seemingly random non-sensical symbols that require operations from past math classes because I am told to use when I see this specific set of math symbols?

Because I think it is important that America succeed in science, and if we are to solve energy problems, and fix the pollution problems, and deal with diseases that plague us, then maybe we should develop a system of math that uses the whole brain rather than the half.

We also know that emotion, patterns, and connections’ ( entrez /query.fcgi? cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=16478342&dopt=Abstract) increase plasticity in neural networks, and there is a real biological reason you can't remember those trigometric identities.

To often those real world problems are left to be solved by the left brain people, Oh you know, the ones that use only emotion and conjecture to explain why global warming does not matter. Or other non-scientific stuff like stem-cell research or in-vitro fertilization.

I will continue complaining, even to my graduate degree professors, on the splitting of left and right brain systems in academics and how it has put science on the defensive, against leaders who use very little left brain logic. For I do not advocate one side over the other, in science or politics.

And sure we can import minds ( news_mathscience.html), and we do, just listen to a math lecture at a major university, chances are the accents are so thick it will take three TA's and an independent study group to decipher. Why do we have to import ( /2004/06/10/schools_import_singapore_math_style/) them?

But as we approach the end of the first 21st century decade, what systems have we installed to prepare the 21st century generation for the problems we have left? We can as do Rotherham and Carey stare at the broad sociological injustices that no one really questions exist. Or we can begin to look at the path of distillation of academic perfection, a flying running mission to reach a quintessential reduction, and begin to mend the fences not just in the departments of schools and colleges, but also in the brain every student has when faced with a polynomial equation.


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