Didactical Contract Yields Double Bind

Reflection on an assigned reading: “Engaging Students in Learning: A Double Bind on the Teacher,” Herbst (May 2002)

My apologies to all for sounding overly negative in what follows, but I did not like the Herbst article, in any way, except for the right angle problem, itself. I am very open to learning how my perspective is shortsighted, misses his message, or anything else I failed to see; I just feel compelled to speak my mind here. I think it’s the geezer factor kicking in.

While there were a few needles in Herbst’s haystack of an article (teacher interventions in student learning, challenge of assessing understanding, just what did NCTM expect of teachers & students re: proofs, the complexity of teaching math) I wanted to burn the haystack down to find them rather than sift through all of the straw to get to the needles. I felt Herbst obscured the higher-order, and more interesting, points, such as the challenge of teaching students to reason logically and methodically, in a complex maze of missives that made any distillation of key points overly complicated.

While the general question concerning the frequency, timing & form of teacher interventions in student problem solving sessions would be helpful to explore further, his “Right Angle Episode” seemed to be artificially constrained by use of the didactical contract as a framework simply to illustrate an example of a double bind in the context of math instruction.

I also felt his use of just one observation of Andie discussing proofs in the “Right Angle Episode” homework problem was unscientific, at best, and at worst, many other things I will not share in writing.

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About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Secondary math teacher teaching math intervention, algebra 1, honors precalculus, and AP Calculus AB. I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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