Recently, I was sent a copy of a letter from a mathematics professor to a science journal. The mathematics professor opens his letter by explaining that mathematics professors are the most qualified individuals “to speak with authority on the subject of mathematics and the pedagogy of mathematics.”
Below are some quotes from the letter.
Having had considerable opportunity of late to observe the preparation of students entering college from this community as compared with that preparation some fifteen years ago, I can only deplore the modern tendency to give at most a superficial attention to fundamental subjects.
The teachers in the high schools and the elementary schools are working just as hard as ever, are just as efficient as ever, but they can not obtain as good results under the handicap of present-day curricula. The student can not be trained to think in as effective a manner as he was fifteen or twenty years ago.
But those who have been most responsible for this unfortunate state of affairs in the high schools and the elementary schools, far from realizing the work of destruction that they have already done, are now endeavoring to complete it by attacking what is left of valuable educational training in the curricula of today.
It sounds exactly like what we are hearing in Alberta right now. Here’s the punchline, though. This letter was written in 1914. Full text of the letter.
Despite this mathematician’s prediction of impending doom, I submit for your debate and discussion that we have still managed to have a pretty good 100 year run.
Further, this letter was sent to me by an Alberta mathematics professor who indicates frustration with this back-to-basics push in our province.