Zombie arguments

Filling the pail

At the start of August, Barbara Oakley, a Professor of Engineering, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about maths teaching. It is a largely sensible piece about the fact that improvement in maths requires practice, not all of which is particularly pleasant.

Oakley’s article is still creating a stir in the maths blogosphere. Dan Meyer, a education software designer*, has now devoted two blog posts to attacking it. This is notable because Meyer has recently appeared to withdraw from the maths wars, having once been a constructivist/reform/inquiry/fuzzy maths partisan (see his 2010 TED talk and his blog motto, ‘less helpful’).

Meyer’s latest blog post drags up ideas about ‘conceptual understanding’ and ‘maths zombies’ that will be familiar to those of us who have been around the block a few times. I have written a lot of posts about conceptual understanding and it’s actually quite…

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