Mathematics in Schools
Lecturer's Plea for Overhaul of Syllabus
A lively discussion was provoked last night by Mr William Taylor, lecturer at Moray House Training College, in an address which he gave to the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in the Mathematical Institute, Chambers Street, Edinburgh.
Speaking on "School Mathematics," My Taylor opened with a plea to the Society to stimulate discussion of mathematical teaching problems and promote more frequent contacts between mathematical teachers and research workers. He discussed the present tendencies of mathematical teaching in senior schools, such as the dethronement of Euclid as a textbook, and the preference for an intuitional approach to new problems in place of the older formalism.
Mr Taylor urged that these tendencies should be carried further. He wanted to see a thoroughgoing broadening of the mathematical syllabus to bring it into greater contact with situations occurring in real life, with the twofold aim of increasing its cultural and its utilitarian value. The arithmetic of everyday life and of commerce, he said, should be taught; the approach to geometry should be based, in the first place, on the pupils' own experience and discoveries, theorems being linked together "more like bunches of bananas than strings of sausages"; while in algebra (particularly for students not contemplating mathematical careers) he recommended that far less time should be wasted on tedious manipulative practice.
This last point raised strong criticism from both teachers and professors in his audience, who demanded more, not less, attention to algebraic manipulation, but the speaker maintained his point with vigour in the discussion.