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Don’t Do the “Math Dance”!!!

# Don’t Do the “Math Dance”!!!

In “Do The Math Dance: Mathematicians And Choreographers Use Dance To Teach Mathematics” we learn how not to teach math, we learn how one might use “experience” in education so you cannot learn anything conceptual from it:
May 1, 2008 — Combining math and dance concepts allows people to experience a physical sensation of the often abstract concepts of math. Mathematical problem-solving is incorporated when creating new dances, which can even inspire new mathematics. Concepts can be taught in the ballroom and applied in the classroom, bring together movement, rhythm, geometry, and more.  Copyright © 1995-2009 ScienceDaily LLC  —  All rights reserved.
Yeah…right. Dancing and getting a “physical sensation” is not equivalent to learning a mathematical concept!! Horses (see also Pakistani horse dance) and dogs (see also dog dancing to a song from “Grease”) can engage in elaborate movement and “dances,” but they most certainly cannot grasp concepts of mathematics or engage in mathematical problem-solving. Learning the waltz will not help you learn to count money or do the math you need to be a successful financier. Dance can help only as one instance — of many others — of a mathematical concept. And it is a very limited instance, at that. You can go a lot further mathematically playing with popsicle sticks than doing math through dance — popsicle sticks, like pebbles or like beads on an abacus, allow for more generality and abstract use; they can more easily be applied to all kinds of concrete situations.
The terms, symbols and patterns of mathematics are often confusing, but two choreographers have calculated a way to put the rhythm in problem-solving.
Um. Often? Confusing to whom? The “terms, symbols, and patterns” are condensed and simplified already; the problem is, mostly, the teachers/instructors who have “muddied the waters” for us, in order to make themselves appear deep (to use a quote and idea of Nietzsche) or because they themselves are confused or ignorant. Some people are “often confused,” yes, but it is not the math that creates the difficulty, it’s that those people need special treatment and special methods.
Erik Stern and Karl Schaffer are the creators of a “math dance.” “Many math-phobic adults and children — young people — are put off by math because they are given symbols before they have a real solid experience on which to base it on,” Stern explains.
No, it’s because of bad teaching and false views of concept-formation and reason: rationalism and Dewey’s pragmatism. What’s more, it’s nonsense that people don’t have “a real solid experience on which to base” math. The reality on which math is based is all around us; it’s open, accessible and available to everyone. All we have to do is look; all we have to do is have it pointed out to us correctly.
“Well, for many people, having a kinesthetic experience of an abstract idea is extremely helpful in understanding what that abstract is,” Karl Schaffer, Ph.D., an educator, choreographer and mathematician at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, told Ivanhoe.
But it does not give you the abstraction. Were these people able to apply their dance moves to finance, economics, international currency conversion, chemistry and physics?
“I saw students who normally aren’t very focused, extremely engaged in the lesson today with the movement and with the math concepts, and they loved it,” Paula Bailey, principal of the Betsey B. Winslow School in New Bedford, Mass., told Ivanhoe. Copyright © 1995-2009 ScienceDaily LLC  —  All rights reserved.
Duh. They are hopping around; they have to be focused and “engaged.” Any monkey can do that; and it says nothing in terms of conceptual learning. What about the people who would be annoyed at being made to do such things? What about the time wasted when such a program takes up students’ precious time for months or years? This stuff might help some learn one instance of “three” or “four” or some perceptual-level pattern, but it is incapable of teaching the things we need to learn in math: the decimal system, simple interest, continuous interest, pi, e, the quadratic equation; and beyond that: the derivative, the integral, limits and continuity. The “Math Dance” does not add up. There is no proof, nor is there attempted proof, that it works. All Stern and Schafer do is all they can do: arbitrarily assert. Proper math instruction needs to be abstract, conceptual, broad in its concretes, and language- and symbol-based. History demonstrates this. Update (10:45 AM):  By the same token (that ‘dance can teach math’), why not music or food? They produce “physical sensations,” too. They, too, would make students “who normally aren’t very focused, extremely engaged in the lesson.” You could also say:

“Combining math and culinary concepts allows people to experience a physical sensation of the often abstract concepts of math;” or

“Combining math and music concepts allows people to experience a physical sensation of the often abstract concepts of math;”

“Mathematical problem-solving is incorporated when creating new foods or methods of cooking, which can even inspire new mathematics;”

“Mathematical problem-solving is incorporated when creating new musical compositions, which can even inspire new mathematics;”

“Concepts can be taught in the kitchen and applied in the classroom, bring together movement, rhythm, geometry, and more;”

“Concepts can be taught in the performance hall and applied in the classroom, bring together movement, rhythm, geometry, and more.”

Update (7:45 PM):  Or, for that matter, other things that would teach pattern, movement, and geometry are: horseback riding; equestrian competitions involving a course in an arena; competitions running a dog through an agility or obstacle course.