It Isn’t What You Think, Dept.

Yong Zhao, a professor at U of Oregon’s ed school has gone on record saying the PISA exam that has been used to rank nations in math ability, is like a beer drinking contest.

Yong states that though the Asian countries do well on such tests, they do not possess the creativity and entrepreneurship of other countries. Such as the USA.

““We should ignore Pisa entirely,” Professor Zhao said. “I don’t think it is of any value. If you look at the so-called high-scoring areas, like Shanghai and all the East Asian countries, they are trying to get away from what has made them high on Pisa [rankings].”

“The academic, who was educated in China, said that the country’s education system was an effective machine that could instil what the government wanted students to learn, but it did not nurture creativity. The result is that China has a population with similar skills on a narrow spectrum, he claimed.”

I had sent Yong a copy of my book “Confessions of a 21st Century Math Teacher” some time ago.  He responded that he enjoyed the “stories” in the book, but didn’t know what the book’s message was. He would keep reading, though, he said.

I don’t know if he’s kept reading, but my message was simple. The quest for moving away from traditional math was hurting, not helping, students. I would add to that statement that the US has been full of creative people for a very long time. US ingenuity has flourished even when math and other subjects were taught in a traditional manner, and continues to flourish as the education has gone over to bad and unproven practices. Our creativity is NOT a product of our education system.

In short, Yong, PISA does provide information of value. Particularly so, given that the test is based on fuzzy precepts and purports to test students’ ability to solve problems they haven’t seen before. And despite US’s current propensity toward teaching “problem solving” as a skill separate from the knowledge needed to solve the basic problem types, the US does worse than those nations that use the practices that the edu-establishment derides.

But keep reading my book Yong. Maybe something will come to you.


One thought on “It Isn’t What You Think, Dept.

  1. “Creativity is easy. I get great ideas all of the time. What’s not easy is having the knowledge and skills and taking the risk to do the work with the chance of failing. Our culture encourages taking individual risks. Other cultures do not, and it has nothing to do with how they teach math. My son’s success on the AMC and AIME math exams had no negative effect on his creativity. In fact, it had the opposite effect. He better knows the boundary where real technical innovation and creativity exists.


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