Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dis-education begins early

Human intelligence is largely dependent on pattern recognition. The very survival of the cro-magnon man depended on his ability to recognize repetitive patterns. Much of our scientific discoveries and inventions owe much to our innate ability to recognize patterns. The solar calendar, identification of agricultural cycles, Mendeleev's periodic tables, genetics, theory of evolution, most(all?) of mathematics, and most(all?) of science have come about due to the human brain's ability to ferret out repetitive patterns in everyday occurrences.
So, pattern recognition and learning how to do that in a scientific manner with checks and balances (lest you end up with superstitions which are the result of over-active pattern recognition with no cross checking) is very important.

Last week, I was going through my son's 5th standard math text book and there was a section called "complete the sequence". The following problem, lifted out of that text book, really stumped me:
Find the next three numbers in the following sequence:
1, 17, 22, 12, __, __, __
While I was wracking my brains, my son filled it up quickly with 28, 33, 23. When I asked him how, he said "Oh! that's easy. Take 1, add 16 and you get 17. Add 5 and you get 22. Subtract 10 and you get 12. So with 12 add 16 and get 28. Add 5 to that and get 33. Subtract 10 and get 23. Done. That's how the teacher taught us!".

They are teaching children to see patterns where there is not enough data. Had to coin a new word for what our education system is doing - Dis-education! Hereafter, if someone says "school did not teach me anything", I'll say "Aren't you the lucky one!".

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