How to listen to this talk: A Formula for Changing Math Education by Arthur Benjamin
Before listening Discuss these questions with a partner (or write short answer to them on your own).
What math did you learn in your first years of school? What math did you learn as a teenager?
What math do you use and remember now?
Do you want to change anything about the way math is taught in your country?
Listening Click here to listen to Arthur Benjamin’s formula for changing math education on TED.com.
Listen to it twice.
If you didn’t understand everything, listen two more times with subtitles. (Click “English” in the box below the video.)
If you didn’t understand everything, read the transcript. (Click “Open Interactive Transcript”. There’s a box to the right of the video. In the top-right of the box, you can click the button.)
For any difficult parts, click on the words in the transcript. Then, you can listen to him say those parts again.
Now, if you’re really having trouble, you can listen with subtitles in your language. After you’ve listened with subtitles in your language, listen again in English.
Comprehension Questions Did you really understand this talk? Try to answer these questions. (Answers are below.)
What’s a Czar of Mathematics?
What does the word “implement” mean?
He compares math education to a pyramid. Describe the comparison. What is the bottom of the pyramid? What is the current top of the pyramid?
What change does he suggest for math education?
Does he think calculus is a good thing?
Make a list of the good things he says about statistics.
Why does he mention that the world has “changed from analog to digital”?
Do you know what “two standard deviations from the mean” means?
Discussion Questions Now discuss these questions.
Do you agree with Professor Benjamin? Why/Why not?
How often do you use calculus in your life?
How often do you use statistics in your life?
Are there any other changes you would make to the way math is taught in schools?
Below the video on the TED site are many comments. Read some of the comments. Do you agree or disagree with them?
What’s a Czar of Mathematics? It’s not a real thing, but, in theory, a Czar of Mathematics would be able to change any math policy in the country.
What does the word “implement” mean? You can read the definition and hear it in a sentence here.
He compares math education to a pyramid. Describe the comparison. What is the bottom of the pyramid? What is the current top of the pyramid? He means that you learn a lot of things in order to reach a goal, just like a pyramid has a lot of stone at the bottom so that there can be the top point. The bottom of the pyramid is the math you learn in your first years of school. The top of the pyramid is calculus.
What change does he suggest for math education? He thinks that statistics should be at the top of the pyramid, not calculus.
Does he think calculus is a good thing? Yes. He thinks it’s “one of the great products of the human mind” and that students who study math, science, engineering, and economics should study it.
Make a list of the good things he says about statistics. 1) You could and should use it every day because it’s about risk/reward and understanding data. 2) If more people knew about statistics, then the country’s current economic problems wouldn’t exist. 3) It’s fun (e.g. games and gambling). 4) You can use it to analyze trends (see patterns) and predict the future.
Why does he mention that the world has “changed from analog to digital”? Without defining the complicated word “analog” this just means that the world doesn’t use old things anymore.
Do you know what “two standard deviations from the mean” means? In short, a standard deviation from the mean shows how close most of the data is to the average. Like, if you’re looking at average height in a class, and just about everyone is 160cm tall (or very close), then the standard deviation will be small. Two standard deviations is a bigger range. You can learn more here.