Rebel Math Curriculum

The  Treehorn  Express

Treehorn is not feeling well. He was immortalised by Florence Parry Heidi in The Shrinking of Treehorn but it doesn’t seem to have done him or his school friends any good. Nobody with any clout cares about them. No groups of parents; no groups of teachers; no party of politicians…just nobody at all. Well, it’s not obvious.  Adults keep talking about things like carbon tax, illegal migrants, naughty parliamentarians, football finals …evanescent topics by comparison with the learning welfare of kids at school….the crazy inequalities… the country’s future….schooling and learning.

You would think that teachers had enough organisational ability and political acumen to make ‘TESTING’  the Number One issue for the forthcoming elections, wouldn’t you?

Don’t lose hope, Treehorn. Something will happen. When Naplan testing is stopped; is dead, ‘buried and cremated’… you will be able to grow to 10 feet in height and turn purple, pink and maroon in celebration.You’ll love schooling then because it will be about learning and beauty and challenge and fair-dinkum self-activated achievement. Can you imagine, then, what our country will be capable of doing?


Rebel Math Curriculum

School principal, Allan Alach referred me to a blog  Thank you, Allan. It was such fun to read and I know that everyone will enjoy it. Please bear with me while I quote some pieces. Kleinists will prefer not to read the lot, in any case. Learners will have fun. The article opens with an extract from Paul Lockhart’s A Mathematician’s Lament :-

“LOWER SCHOOL MATH. The indoctrination begins. Students learn that mathematics is not something you do, but something that is done to you. Emphasis is on sitting still, filling out worksheets, and following directions. Children are expected to master a complex set of algorithms for manipulating Hindi symbols, unrelated to any real desire or curiosity on  their part, and regarded only a few centuries ago as too difficult for the average adult. Multiplication tables are stressed, as are parents, teachers and the kids themselves.”

Inside the article itself,  the author describes our present-day schooling systems:- “Within the Educational Empire, there are Official Imperial Standards which teachers must adhere to or they will be fired and annual multiple-choice tests that students must take as if their lives depended on them. As Imperial masters routinely state, students who do poorly on these tests will die poor and lonely, and students who do well on these tests will go on to an Empire approved Private Academy where they will accumulate massive debts which must be repaid to the Empire through decades of hard labour.”

In the Conclusion to his advocacy for a Rebel Maths curriculum,  he says, “In this Rebel Education, gone are the days of Algebra, Geometry, More Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus. Gone are the days of lengthy multiple choice tests. Teachers assess students by analysing the products they create and encourage the students themselves to reflect critically on their own creations. Students are not pressured to meet Imperial standards, but instead be responsible for setting their own goals for improvement each semester. The students don’t feel like they are competing to score higher than their classmates, but instead learn to recognise that each of their classmates has a different set of skills and that by cooperating they can achieve things that they could not do alone. While the Empire is pumping out clone after clone, the Rebels are producing a diverse array of students with varying sets of knowledge and skills.

Which students do you think would be happier and more successful in life? Those with their Empire prescribed cookie-cutter education? Or those from the Rebel academies?”

[Apologies for the oft-mentioned word ‘student’. I wasn’t brave enough to change it to the correct name:- “pupil – one who learns with a teacher”.]

Might I  refer back to two-Treehorns–ago about the beauty and challenges of Maths?  Monday’s satellite photo of hurricane Irene showed Fibonacci’s discoveries pretty clearly, didn’t it? I wonder how many present-day pupils noticed that….or how many Kleinists would care. Just a point.


What do you think a country could do, if it treated Mathematics as a thing of beauty and achievement and challenge – instead of trying to produce  cookies all the same size and shape.



A comment and story, printed in the Washington Post on Monday, [29-08-2011] has just arrived. Thank you Marion Brady. It is certainly relevant to the present discussion on the bastardisation of beautiful Mathematics; and on the government’s use of low-level methods of control of teachers – the reward and coercive powers- which only bring lower-level responses from the teaching force.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Poinr

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

Please share this with as many folk as possible…especially your local member,  Naplan is dangerous.


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