Thursday, August 22, 2013

add global competence, subtract... what?

My assortment of thoughts in no particular order:

1) I agree with the thoughts shared by Kelly S., Rachel J. and others
that a greater emphasis on global competencies means a lesser emphasis
on something else we deem less important. The problem is that some of
those things we know in our hearts are less important (standardized
test scores, college admissions) are also easier to
measure/understand/advertise. Are we willing to risk some of that
outward appearance of high status and achievement for something

2) What % of our students take advantage of the many opportunities to
have meaningful experiences (like a Belize trip), and what % choose to
stay within a relative comfort zone of just going to class to get good
grades to get into a good college?

3) A BB&N alum (Alex Pogany '01) manages a local network of farms/CSA
programs. Are we doing anything with that connection? They have a
teen summer program, and one of them in the video (link below) says,
"The Food Project is everything school should be, but isn't!"

Our community rarely experiences the stress of food scarcity, so we
have the privilege of not having to think about where our food comes
from. It's just always there, ready to be purchased in plenty of
stores and restaurants. Still, a heck of a lot needs to happen just
to get, say, a simple slice of pizza from Armando's. Where did the
flour come from? The cheese? The tomatoes? The take out container?
The various spices? Why did they come from there and not some other
place? How much fuel did it take to ship that much food from wherever
to Cambridge? Getting our school involved with CSA could be like
mixing together local/global awareness with agricultural science with
economics and business with saving the world and feeding hungry
people. That's a pretty sweet combination. But it might mean that we
don't simplify as many variable radical expressions or solve as many
absolute value equations. Which actually brings me to my last

4) How can we compare the value of meaningful math that is
immediately and obviously applicable to "useless" more abstract math
when we really don't know what the future will hold for our students?
I don't have to simplify variable radical expressions in my day-to-day
life, but there is a lot of logic involved in being able to do so.
Isn't logical thinking generally applicable to whatever problems our
students end up facing? I go back and forth between thinking this
push for global competency is another phase of our project based
learning push, and thinking that it actually validates teaching those
math topics that do not fit easily into a real-life project or
application. They both have their benefits, and this is not
necessarily an either/or choice, but going back to point 1), we can't
keep adding stuff into the curriculum without taking something out.


Richard Chang
Math Department Chair
BB&N Middle School

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