Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Physicist Parent

I've chatted with colleagues at work a number of time on their kids and schools. Often, this revolves around what they see of the math and science (particularly physics) education that their kids get from their schools. Obviously, being physicists, they certainly do know quite a bit more than the average parent about the math and physics subject matter that the kids are learning. My colleagues at work certainly pay close attention to making sure their kids are doing their school work, etc., but some time, they also notice "strange" or not-quite-correct material that the kids are learning. Most of the time, it is more of the education approach that the students are put through that they found a bit odd, but there were times where they had to correct a few misleading or incorrect idea that they had come across.

So what about you? Are you a parent of a child or children that are in school and learning math and science/physics? Do you monitor closely what your kids are learning, and have you found a few things that you had to correct? Do the teachers of your kids know who you are and what you do for a living?



Y.H.N. said...

I have two approaches.

The first is that I put up with it. After all, in my own teaching I start with the Bohr atom and mention in passing that there are better models. We are quickly on to the next subject and it just never gets covered.

The second is that I try to supplement the school materials. After learning to count I taught my oldest boy how to count by multiples and then by squares. This set him up with some tools that let him excel later.

Peter Davis said...

I'm not a parent (yet…one's in the oven), but if my own childhood is any indication I'd try to avoid creating a know-it-all. I tried to explain to my 4th grade substitute teacher that "The sky is blue because you're seeing the reflection of the ocean" doesn't make any sense, but it didn't get me very far :-)

(Seriously??? Why is the ocean gray and the sky's still blue in the desert? Even a 4th grader can figure that out…)

Maor said...

As a physics student in high school (I'm currently learning Post-AP Physics senior year, and I hope to become a physicist) I agree tremendously that in my school many of the physics concepts can be taught incorrectly or inaccurately and especially in the wrong order. I took my physics classes outside of school in a college. When I help ap physics at school they are so confused and annoyed.

Jason Virdin said...

My oldest is only 5, but I'm already annoyed with what I see from the neighborhood schools for math. I'm an electrical engineering major and I have some very strong opinions about how math should should be taught. Our district uses Everyday Math. I'll be honest. I haven't fully researched Everyday Math (or the others like Saxon, Singapore, etc.), but from what I've seen so far, I'm not impressed.

One of the things I've noticed is that they really encourage the use of calculators. That really bothers me. It's one thing to make sure that the students are capable of using a calculator. However, if you can't do the math on paper, you don't understand it well enough.

The other thing I've noticed is strange techniques that are taught with Everyday Math. The lattice method for multiplicaton. Maybe I'm just annoyed with it because I was taught differently, but I cannot stand their methods.

Lastly, EM does little to reinforce newly learned concepts. The kids learn something new, work with it for a short period, and move onto the next topic. If your kid falls struggles and falls behind a little, they're destined for failure. I've seen it with far too many kids in the neighborhoods.