No one wants students who don’t understand the meaning of their subject; we don’t want our students to merely regurgitate facts devoid of context, or for them to know how to answer questions in an exam yet have no idea what these things mean outside of an exam hall. And yet, on the path to understanding it is unavoidable that our students will often have to learn things that perhaps they feel they don’t fully understand, and will have to memorise things devoid of context. This is what I call The Understanding Paradox.
My view is that teachers attempting to bypass the memorisation and rote learning part of teaching in order to ‘teach for understanding’ can have disastrous consequences for students.
I want to illustrate my point by discussing trigonometry. You might remember it from school, and if you do, you probably remember SOHCAHTOA, the mnemonic device used by pretty…
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