Over here, in Australia, I only really learnt about the approximation 22/7 in university, incidentally when my friends and I started hosting pi day on the 14th of March [03/14 in your dating system], and I read about pi approximation day [22/07 in our dating system]. Very bizarre. I don't know about primary school teachers, but over here maths teachers generally, at a minimum, have a BSc in maths or science (in addition to a graduate diploma or bachelor in education). It still doesn't mean we have enthusiastic maths students... and being a science teacher myself, Benezet's study seems very authentic. I've found myself that I look at some areas of maths and physics and understand them now, when I know I looked at them in high school and never really grasped them. The logic/rational part of our brains is the last to fully work itself out post-puberty, usually around 25 years of age, so it does make sense.
I have a friend who sometimes has to explain science to his friend, who is a science teacher. I am constantly stunned by the teacher's ignorance (vector dot products, conservation laws, ...).
Not yet read the whole article but skimming it, yeah dropping arithmetic seems sensible now that we have calculators. Just teach them geometry and programming, and trig and stats/prob when they're older.
My grandfather could do calculus on a slide rule (and often did), which struck me as nothing short of deep magic. Because of his ability to do this, he was able to approximate calculations in his head better and faster than most people could do on a calculator.
I am not in favor of continuing the trend of dumbing-down our society.
Fair enough, but forcing everyone to learn something that they can see they will never use, just because it's easy to teach and was useful in the past seems pointless. In school i had to chant time-tables, it nearly drove me off the subject entirely until i discovered fractals and cellular automata.
I've still got my grandad's slide rule (he was in the Royal Engineers), as you say they're fantastic for intuiting orders of magnitude calculations.
And I do, too. Not "forcing everyone to learn something that they can see they will never use" simply panders to their juvenile desires to be lazy and ignorant. A lot of kids that squirm in their seats complaining that they're "never gonna use this" then spend their off-hours playing video games or sports. There's nothing wrong with video games or sports, but it is a bit hypocritical to be OK with doing those things but not OK with doing math.
But, there's definitely room for improvement in teaching methods. Listening to anyone drone on at the front of a room is hard for most people, and memorizing columns of numbers isn't fun or easy either. But, let's not say that there isn't any value in listening to a lecture or memorizing tables.
I'm totally not ok with sports in school, i hated them, huge waste of time, and i don't know that i'm ok with video games since i never played them as a child and have a hard time playing them now (i'm very very bad at them, but am playing my way through the classics (currently Deus Ex)). TBH they scare me.
Thanks for the vid, i've only got as far as the chessboard so far, i remember hearing about that on an OU show as a kid.
Don't get me wrong i'm all about the memorising, it's just frustrating that when i tell people i studied maths they always say "Oh I'm no good at arithmetic" :|
re: part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb3JI8F9LQQ&NR=1 I saw a show on BBC 2 a while back, think it was a Horizon, which said that educating girls definitely reduces population growth since they then want to work, and consequently have fewer children.
This reminds me of when an English teacher and every other student in the class insisted to me that "library" had only two syllables. In the course of my objections, I learned that they considered "y" to be a consonant in this instance (even though it sounds exactly the same as the "ie" in "libraries") and confirmed that "crazy" and "silly" were, to them, one-syllable words. I cannot know whether this was a long-held local teaching or they were spinning it up on the spot, out of conformity, to justify a single typo on an answer sheet. With no dictionary on hand in the classroom, I was shouted down and told to accept that I was wrong and stop wasting everyone's time.
Granted that language, unlike math, is defined by consensus, I do think phonology is an area of it wherein some logic, perhaps even some science, must have a hand.