Friday, June 01, 2007

Mathematical Culture

I first want to link this post, due to which I am writing this. Obviously what I express is my opinion and everyone has their own thoughts and opinions. I'm just writing that because I do have some 'weird' opinions at times, and I thought it best to post here rather than go of on other tangents at Mathematics under the Microscope.

Before that post I had never really considered a thing such as 'mathematical culture', but one does exist it seems. As I said in the comments of that blog, I believe that mathematical culture in todays society has changed because of society itself changing. Obviously, change is inevitable, but there are different aspects of change. You have advancement of technology on one hand, which is obviously going to induce change. Also on the other hand you have technology again. (Well at this moment I'm still trying to think of that other thing!). [edit: upon discussion with Noddy, it seems that money being 'readily available' is something which has also changed]

Now I consider myself to be slightly 'old fashioned' one could say, and my thoughts and opinions probably reflect this. I use the world old fashioned because I can't really think of any other word to use. You see maybe this is why I seem to get on with adults, my teachers, lecturers etc. Obviously that is a generalization, and I'm going to try and not do that but Milo finds it weird the way I seem 'comfortable' talking to adults. One reason this could be is that in secondary school, I used to always have 'mature' conversations with my English teacher. About the world, politics and everything. As well as helping my English I think that shaped me as an individual. Not the conversations, but being talked to as a person- an 'adult'. This might sound funny, but I haven't mentioned my English teacher that much (since this is a maths blog!), but I always admired the honesty and integrity with which my English teacher taught with and carried. I am who I am partly thanks to my English teacher. Once again I'm going on about the affect teachers play in our lives, but I honestly believe that they're like our second parents. How much of our time do we spend in their presence? They're special and have an important job which should be respected.

You see that is my old fashioned view. I think my secondary school teachers and something else, instilled this belief in me. I am grateful for it. OK, I'm not perfect and I do regret the way I may have behaved in my Physics lessons, but at that time not being able to ask questions was my excuse. Now as I've 'matured' one could say that my behaviour wasn't particularly good. Anyway, the main point I'm trying to make is that although I will probably not grow up for a while, I have certain beliefs which I try to carry myself with.

I wouldn't really consider myself to be part of today's culture and society, because my upbringing will probably prevent me from saying that convincingly. Apologies for jumping from topics, but what is a parents duty if it isn't to raise there children in the best possible manner. The definition of 'best possible manner' is different for everyone and I respect that. In my opinion parents should raise there children to be 'good people'. Once again that's not a very concrete word but you know to have respect for elders, to know the difference between right and wrong, to have good morals etc.

As a child I wasn't allowed to do certain things. Some of these things I didn't really care about, I mean as kids if you're not allowed to stay downstairs till 9pm you don't. You might still be awake upstairs but you have that certain rule, that you have be upstairs by 9pm and it doesn't bother you. There were other things which I wasn't allowed doing that I actually wanted to do. At the time I obviously didn't take this so kindly and probably did 'rebel'. Nothing came of this rebellion since my parents were always firm. However as a kid you get 'over it'. I mean so what I wasn't allowed going to such a such persons house. In my old house we didn't particularly live in a good area and so my parents were over cautious. We used to be allowed to play in the backstreet at first but soon that stopped (we moved houses!).

Before I get carried away with my 'restrictions', they never harmed me or stopped me from growing. I grew in an environment set by my parents, which they believed to be the best way to raise their children. I loved my childhood. Every minute of it. I never look back and think of what we didn't do, but I look back at the times we played 'fun house', the time I closed the cupboard on my sister and got into trouble by my Grandad! :D (well I couldn't exactly expect him to defend me after that- but she cried too easily!). My parents did an awful lot for us, and these restrictions they placed were the best possible thing that they ever did.

The other day on the TV some programme or other was on. I don't remember what it was, but there was a woman and she was saying that she wanted her children to be 'individuals and independent' which is why she lets them do what they want. She didn't want them to 'not have anything and have any restrictions'. I was pretty '.....' I don't know to be honest! I mean just because I wasn't allowed to do a certain thing doesn't mean that I'm not an individual does it? So then what does that make me? I think there are two extremes and this woman was towards one. I think the rules that are present in a household are important since they allow you to appreciate things. I mean there are certain things I am glad that my parents never let me do. Living by rules allows you to know and understand what one can't do and what one can do. Impossible is nothing 'supposedly', but if you're never taught that swearing is wrong would you ever stop swearing?

This woman probably had her reasons, but you see maybe that's the difference in society today and 20 years ago. Are children dictating their upbringing? Should they be? My Dad always tells us about how difficult it was in 'his days' and how far he had to walk to go to school, would we do that today?

To be honest I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say in this post. Do I generalize or not, but it's so easy to generalize. I mean I look around at the people I see and wonder what motivates them and drives them? What causes them to hit others and chuck wood out of a bus windows onto people below (ouch! 24/04/05)? What causes them to spit on people walking past? I mean what causes a student to physically abuse their teacher? Maybe spitting and what not would have happened twenty years ago but I shudder to think what would have happened had you tried to hit your teacher! Or is my recollection of a history lesson in year 5 from way back? (The teacher brought a cane in!) I think children nowadays lack discipline. That's the only way in which I can put it, however you can't entirely blame the kids for this. I think I'm talking about the 'next generation', but then again I don't know.

The media has a role to play in this amongst other things, but the change in culture and society today is having an impact on other things. People's disregard for things is causing them to overlook the importance of appreciating things like education. I'm saying this because of the people I've met and my experiences, but I do know that all is not like this. It's just that the people who tend to 'abuse' teachers are the ones we make examples out of.

Since this post is supposed to be on mathematical culture, I'll have to stop rambling about that. I think the continuous change in syllabus has something to do with the 'disappearance' of the mathematical culture, but as has the change in attitudes of people. Will this mathematical culture ever resurface? I really can't say. In my head I imagine that 30 years ago having a conversation with someone about for example chemistry, wouldn't have been seen as abnormal. Or even maths say or any other subject. However today, unfortunately, I believe that the only conversations which are seen as normal are 'who got fired on the apprentice, or who got evicted from big brother'. That is what I mean by the change in attitude of society. Will this ever change? I mean obviously one can't always expect to talk about chemistry or maths, but what I'm saying is that you probably wouldn't have been laughed at or told to shut up if you had talked about them. (well I hope so anyway!)

Why don't people see it as a positive and advantage that one can do maths? I'm thinking of Po as I write this. Po is 'good' at maths but at the moment isn't liking the maths teacher. Since I'm the older bean and maths bean, I am trying to encourage Po to not 'dislike maths'. From all the teletubbies it seems that I've been the only one who has really had that desire to want to learn. I'll be honest with you, even when I was really ill I still went to school. I shouldn't have but I never missed one day of school apart from when my Grandad passed away in year 8. I don't see anything wrong with that, but Po and Noddy do and I hate it when they miss days of. (Especially Noddy!) The value of education has depreciated.

Gah- it's 2am so I think I've started talking some random nonsense. It's been a weird day today in more than one way. On one hand I don't know where I'm heading in life and enjoy that fact, but on the other hand I want some definition in my life. I think of the people I know and wonder what they'd think were they to read this long post on what I think of society today. They probably wouldn't care, and I'm thinking for a second why do I care? Should I care?

Today my Dad asked me to 'teach' my brother chemistry since he has exams coming up. (My dad's becoming lazy :D) I actually panicked. How the heck can I teach dad, I argued. However he just told me to help my brother with his revision. I 'care' about this matter since at the moment I want to be a teacher, but I don't know whether I'm cut out to be a teacher. I mean I have my idea on what makes a 'good teacher' and what kind of teacher I'd like to be, but come on that's all on cloud nine! You know it's so easy for me to sit back and say that so and so is a good teacher, but it isn't an easy job at all.

I am worried, and on cloud nine I'm not making a decision about teaching until after I've completed my PhD. LOL. Life is so much nice on cloud nine, but I think on earth i.e. real life, I probably won't be doing a PhD straight after my degree. Maybe one day I'll do it part time, but it's not looking on the cards at the moment since there are other things which I hope to accomplish in life. (One could say stupid things). I think the PASS sessions will hopefully allow me to get more experience, since it is my lack of it which is causing me concern. And I'm going to try helping my brother revise maths rather than chemistry (Noddy has exams so I had to 'substitute'!).

We all can probably do our own bit to 'continue' this mathematical culture, but where does that fit in with the grand scheme of things? As one of the commenter on the blog said, there are a 'fewer trained mathematicians teaching mathematics now', but is this really an issue? Mr H didn't have a maths degree, but he is the one teacher who helped me to work hard and understand maths. I think what matters is how these teachers teach maths. Mr H. joined my college for the second year of my A levels and initially I didn't like further maths lessons. Why- because he didn't spoon feed us. Towards the end, when I started pulling my weight around I actually thanked him for that. He told us that he's going to teach us how to fly and towards the end of the year we should hopefully be flying. The one other reason why I've probably survived my first year, is that he did help me to fly. The concept of culture is that of a way of life of people. Maths culture is the same(ish), and it's an interesting and diverse one, one which I hope doesn't disappear.


Jake said...

"My Dad always tells us about how difficult it was in 'his days' and how far he had to walk to go to school, would we do that today?"

All dads say this. I remember once complaining to my dad how long it took me to get to school (it was on the opposite side of town) and he regaled me with tales of how he used to have to trek 20 miles to school every day through the driving snow. A quick conversation with my grandmother confirmed that in actual fact, they lived on the same street as his school!

beans said...

That's true, but it seems that my Dad actually did have a long trek to school. (My Grandad confirmed this to us when we complained to him!)

(He was probably trying to tell us to stop complaining and consider ourselves lucky, but at that time we didn't particularly welcome that notion!)