Sunday, March 1, 2009

Teach a Man to Fish

"Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime."

—Author unknown

Education is about learning how to think. It is only when a person can truly think and analyze her own process that he or she will become an independent life-long learner with the ability to be skeptical when necessary. We call the ability to analyze one's own thoughts 'meta cognition' in education lingo.

It follows that the emphasis on any education should be about teaching students to think, in a variety of disciplines... the more the better.

If you look at our system, at least in California, you will see that we teach students how to perform on multiple-choice, standardized tests. Thus we will have a generation of students who can perform well on standardized tests. I am fairly certain though, that this type of training is not teaching the students to think.

More on that later.


JPR said...

Our schools are pretty decent at doing what they do: teaching to the test. Sadly though, many fail in even doing that. As a college student with some experience tutoring middle school kids in math, I am appalled by kids' first response toward math problems. Rather than attempting to figure the problem in general terms, designing a mathematical scenario to provide the requested answer, they punch numbers into their calculators and copy out the numerical answer without regard for units or relevance to the problem.

It really doesn't take a whole lot of effort to get some of these kids to think through the problem; just asking a few questions can guide them toward realizing the place of math in their intellectual toolbox. But until we have a generation of teachers that is willing and able to put forth that effort for each student, we really are failing at teaching our students to think.

Sorry I'm kind of just coming out of the woodwork; I noticed your comment on the Verizon Math blog.

All best

Ms. Wagner said...

Mathchique, Did you have further thoughts on meta cognition?

MathChique said...

Hi Jennifer the Tutor,
I'm sorry in the long delay in my response. I do have more thoughts on Meta Cognition and I will try to put them in a post.

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