Are You a Dish-Washing Robot?

Math with Bad Drawings

or, How to Avoid Thinking in Math Class #3
(See Also Parts 1, 2, and 4)

On Friday I realized—yet again—that my too-clever-for-their-own-good students were finding ways to answer questions without understanding the ideas.

Rather than reckon with the concept of slope, they were memorizing a complex rule:


That’s all true, so far as it goes, but it’s as opaque and sinister as the tax code.

“Math is supposed to make sense!” I told them, and in my flailing to explain why, I found myself reaching for my favorite rhetorical tool: the overly-detailed analogy.

So, to see what math class is like for memorization-driven students, imagine that you’re a household robot.


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