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Rote Learning

See also: Educating Obedience

Standard methods of teaching physics are useless.SANJOY MAHAJAN

Students solve problems by rote, a skill that improves with every year in school, and have no time to develop understandingA Radical Experiment in Mathematics Teaching by SANJOY MAHAJAN

I n a previous column in Optics & Photonics News (March 1992), I wrote about the inefficiency of the passive lecturing method in introductory science classes. Here I address another inefficiency: textbook problems. Standard, end-of-chapter textbook problems can generally be solved by rote memorization of sets of formulas and so called “problem-solving techniques.” Often, students solve problems by identifying equivalent problems that they have solved before. Don't we want our students to be able to tackle new and less familiar terrain? […] So why do we keep testing our students with conventional problems that contain the same number of unknowns and givens and frequently require nothing but mathematical skills? What distinguishes the successful scientist is not the ability to solve an integral, a differential equation, or a set of coupled equations, but rather, the ability to develop models, to make assumptions, to estimate magnitudes, the very skills developed in Fermi problems.

The Problem with Problems by Eric Mazur

Too often our lectures are dull, unimaginative and humourless. Our interests are often excessively narrow and we fail to transmit to students the breadth, unity and excitement of our subject. We are our own worst enemies.B G Wybourne

This is why it is so heartbreaking to see what is being done to mathematics in school. This rich and fascinating adventure of the imagination has been reduced to a sterile set of “facts” to be memorized and procedures to be followed.

A Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart

The basic courses of my first two years were disappointing. They didn’t really give me the opportunity to join that greatest adventure. Most of my lecturers followed traditional teaching approaches based heavily on solving standard problems and learning by rote, with no hint of free inquiry or discussion. They seemed to be convinced that we would understand physics through that method. I was not enthusiastic. Commentary: How to teach me physics by Ricardo Heras

Further Reading

causes/rote_learning.txt · Last modified: 2017/11/02 13:32 (external edit)