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Shared Reading: Math Phobia

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: July 29, 2004
Reviewed:
Latest Update: July 29, 2004

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Index of Topics on Site Math Phobia and the Curriculum

  1. Introduction Why I chose to share this reading.
  2. Focus: Main point of this reading.
  3. Reading Full identification of source for reading AND excerpt.
  4. Concepts: Concepts and Key Words.
  5. Discussion Discussion questions.
  6. Conceptual Linking to Substantive Courses What this has to do with our class.

* * *

Introduction:

  • I wanted to share this reading with you to give you an idea of how you can locate information over a wide area, if you have access to the Internet. I receive e-mails each time a new journal comes out. I can't afford to subscribe to all those journals. But they allow me to read the abstracts. That is a "quick and dirty" way to keep up with the literature in many fields. It only takes a few minutes to scan the titles of the articles, and then you can read the abstracts for those that relate to topics of interest to you. Many journals let you subscribe free to receive such e-mails on the titles and abstracts of their new issues.

Focus:

  • I would like you come away from this reading with the knowledge that you should check out several journals to see if such e-mail notification isn't available for you. Keep up with the literature in your field of interest like a professional.

Concepts and Key Words:

  • "quick and dirty": This is how I refer to shortcuts, panic sheets, shared notes, whatever, to get the information as quickly as possible and hook it up somehow to my apperceptive mass so I can find it when I need it. I mean by the term that you have to learn to do somethings to a "satisfice" level only. I might like to read the whole article and take notes on it; but just maybe I don't have the time. By using any of a number of "quick and dirty" techniques, like checking out the journal titlesand abstracts each month, you can survive in this fast paced world. That's the only way I know to get enough time to be obsessive about the things that really matter and have to be done to a professional level.
  • apperceptive mass: the memory space in which we store all our experiences, both conscious and unconscious. It's like a giant stey pot on the stove into which we dump everything. And as Ruether reminds us, everything is interrelated. In that giant stew pot of our apperceptive mass, some things stay right on top, and you'll get one impressions of what's in my mind if you dip just from the top. If you dip from the bottom, you'll get a different taste, maybe even a different consistency. And if you stir it up, why then you get something altogether different again. And once an experience of any kind is in, it's always with you. You just never know what might stir the whole pot up and make that experience come up to the top again.

    Sometimes we say things, and we can't imagine where they come from. Why did we say that? Just one of those things popping up from our apperceptive mass.

  • focus groups: - groups of people who represent some future clientele you seek from whom you seek what we used to call "grounded theory" - which just means that you ask them what they think, instead of telling them first, based on what you think. They're really just an example of good faith active listening. But they often come from workshops with an analysis template already laid out for you so you won't panic if you're math phobic. "Focus groups" are a really "in" methodology, so I snuck that in to impress you that you really will want to know something about that quantitative stuff and might as well consider what I'm telling you about math phobia.
  • mathematically averse students: - Don't worry. It's not like multiple sclerosis or anything. It's just the professional jargon for math phobic kids, if you want to get published in one of these journals.
  • course delivery: - Is that like pizza? Not really. It's the professional jargon for ways to teach the class so people can actually get it.

Reading:

  • Journal of Geography in Higher Education

    Publisher: Carfax Publishing Company, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
    Issue: Volume 28, Number 2 / July 2004
    Pages: 209 - 228
    URL: Linking Options

    "Mathophobic students' perspectives on quantitative material in the undergraduate geography curriculum," by Andrew M. Folkard, Lancaster University Department of Geography UK.

    Abstract:

    "Results are presented of a series of focus-group sessions held at Lancaster University during May 2002. Participants consisted of 12 undergraduate geography students chosen from amongst those identified as having strong antipathy towards quantitative material. The intention was to mine these students' perspectives on courses covering quantitative techniques in geography degrees, in order to deduce ways of making such courses more effective. Primary findings included a need for (i) textual equivalents of algebraic equations; (ii) vivid and relevant examples; (iii) thorough explanation of all mathematical jargon; (iv) face-to-face tutorials; and (v) worked examples and exercises as stepping stones to more advanced, problem-based learning type approaches to assessment."

    Keywords:

    Quantitative skills, focus groups, mathematically averse students, course delivery

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read the abstract. Why do you think I chose this particular abstract to use as an example?

    I chose this example of an abstract in geography on math phobia for a variety of reasons. See if you can fins some of them before you read my reasoning.

    • Math phobia is something that lots of people think they have. I happen to think it doesn't exist, except as bad early teaching (by a teacher who wasn't fully comfortable with math himself) that we should help you overcome. But lots of people believe it's real. So the topic is one that lots of you might be interested in.

    • Geography is a field that neither Susan nor I teach, so it was likely that none of you would be geographers. I wanted to show you the importance of scanning geography journals anyway, even if your teachers maybe don't.

    • The abstract really says something in plain English. It says we did focus groups, and here is what we found. Lots of abstracts aren't so useful. This is a good example. It tells you how they got the sample and what the results are.

  2. Was it a big sample?

    !2 geography undergraduate students, identified as math phobic? I think not.

  3. Was the study useful?

    You bet. I need to look that article up. The abstract itself makes five useful suggestions to alleviate the math phobia problem in the geography curriculum.

  4. Is the article useful to sociology and criminal justice?

    Do sociologists and criminal justice professionals need to use data. Yes. Then is it useful if we find ways to make that task easier for them? A no-brainer.

  5. Would you be more likely to read the article if it didn't use words like "mathematically averse students."

    I would.

  6. What does math phobia have to do with quantitative skills?

    Well, not much, unless you had a teacher who didn't know her math and taught you her fear instead of the math. Quantitative relates to counting, to numbers. If you can add and subtract you have quantitative skills. If you have a teacher nice enough to show you the "quick and dirty" way to understand SPSS or any of the other analysis programs that real professionals use instead of algebra, you'll see why I don't believe in math phobia. It's just what somebody's teacher was scared of long ago, and they passed that fear on for decades and decades, until dominant discourse believes it's real.

Conceptual Linking to Substantive Courses:

  • Agencies:
    Sample linking: Agency professionals have to keep records, write reports, work with the analysis department. So you need to understand data. If you're scared of math, they call that math phobic these days. Find a good teacher and the phobia will go away. Trust me. I know. I'm a math teacher.

  • Criminal Justice:
    Sample linking: Criminal justice professionals have to keep records, write reports, work with the analysis department. So you need to understand data. If you're scared of math, they call that math phobic these days. Find a good teacher and the phobia will go away. Trust me. I know. I'm a math teacher.

  • Law:
    Sample linking: Hate to tell you, but when it comes to publishing lawyers are as likely to present data analysis as all the other professionals. That means you have to keep records, write reports, work with the analysis department. So you need to understand data. If you're scared of math, they call that math phobic these days. Find a good teacher and the phobia will go away. Trust me. I know. I'm a math teacher.

  • Moot Court:
    Sample linking: If you're ging to win on instrumental discourse, charts and graphs make a strong visual impression That means you have to be able to read and produce graphs, or know enough to work with the analysis department. So you need to understand data. If you're scared of math, they call that math phobic these days. Find a good teacher and the phobia will go away. Trust me. I know. I'm a math teacher.

  • Women in Poverty:
    Sample linking: Agency professionals, health professionals, legal professionals all work with charts and graphs, visual results of data analysis. That means you to be able to read and produce graphs, or know enough to work with the analysis department. So you need to understand data. If you're scared of math, they call that math phobic these days. Find a good teacher and the phobia will go away. Trust me. I know. I'm a math teacher.

  • Race, Gender, Class:
    Sample linking: If you want to answer Jensen when he writes in Harvard Educational Review that "Compensatory education has been tried and failed," then you'd darned well better know that you're far too smart to be math phobic, especially since it doesn't exist, and stand up to all his charts and graphs with supreme confidence. You can. His mistakes weren't mathematical; they were theoretical. See how silly it is to be math phobic?

  • Religion:
    Sample linking: So you think your minister, rabbi, priest, imam doesn't need math? Hah! Religion is one of the hottest social issues of the day. Every professional out there is analyzing us. So you'd better know that you're far too smart to be math phobic, especially since it doesn't exist, and stand up to all charts and graphs when others tell you about your religion.

  • Love !A:
    Sample linking: OK. I don't know about this one. But as a "girl," I know that "guys" are freaked out when "girls" know more math than they do. And besides the best correlation in learning math is with learning languages. Mathematics is a language. And what does all this say about teachers' love for their students. If they loved them, would they pass on that phony fear everyone is so concerned about?



Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, June 2004.
"Fair use" encouraged.