Which WitCH is a WitCH?

It seems it might be worthwhile itemising the outstanding WitCHes, and inviting a general discussion about the WitCHES, and perhaps the blog in general. So, first to the outstanding WitCHes:

  • WitCH 8 is a jungle, that will presumably not be further unjungled. It’s still open for discussion, but I’ll update soon.
  • WitCH 10 has turned out to be very interesting. It is done, except for one (in the opinion of at least some mathematicians) major issue. There is now included near the end of the comments an (admittedly cryptic) clue.
  • WitCH 12 is not a deep one, though there are aspects that really annoy me. The absence of comments suggests others are less bothered (or more resigned). I’ll update soon.
  • WitCH 18 is a semi-WitCH, and commenters have pretty much highlighted the absurdity of it all. I’d suggest the analysis could be a bit more mathsy, but it’s no big deal, and I’ll update soon.
  • WitCH 19 has just been posted. It’s not deep, but we’ll see what commenters make of it.

Now, as to the WitCHes in general, what do people think of them? Are they interesting? Are they just nitpicking? Is there any value in them? Which WitCHes are Column A and which are Column B?

Of course I have my own reasons for posting the WitCHes, and for writing this blog generally in the manner I do. But I’m genuinely curious what people think. What is (arguably) interesting here is an (ex)-mathematician’s blunt criticism crashing into teachers’ and students’ reality, notably and unexpectedly highlighted by WitCH 10. But do commenters, and teachers and students in particular, regard this as interesting and/or entertaining and/or helpful, or merely demoralising and/or confusing and/or irritating?

To be clear, I am inviting criticism. It doesn’t mean I’ll agree (or pretend to agree) with such criticism. It doesn’t mean I’ll switch gears. But to the extent that people think this blog gets it wrong, I am willing and keen to hear, and will treat all such criticism with due respect.  (I presume and know that this blog actively irritates many people. It seems, however, that these people do not wish to lower themselves to comment here. Fair enough.)

11 Replies to “Which WitCH is a WitCH?”

  1. Re: WitCH 12: A few comments have been posted, so I assume none of them touch on what bugs you about this question. In which case, “more resigned” is probably correct ….

    Re: WitCH: My interest was more in how dodgy the question and sample collection was.

    Re: WitCH 8: I liked this one and got a lot from it. It changed my mind on some things and made up my mind on others.

    Re: WitCH 10: There is already so much crap in this one that I wait in anticipation for the mathematician’s coup de grace. (Don’t disappoint!)

    In answer to your question, I enjoy the WitCHes and have found something of value in most of them. I appreciate the time and effort you (Marty) take in posting them, and the time and effort others put into commenting on them. I have learnt things along the way, been entertained, have laughed and have paused for thought.

    I hope that in some small way (it would be too much to ask for anything bigger) that they are embarrassing to VCAA and hence force VCAA to lift it’s game. On more than one occasion I have referred people to your blogs (particularly the Median is the Message). It’s one thing for me to have an opinion, but it’s always been good when that opinion has been supported by you.

  2. I find the WitCHs and the comments very instructive, and personally encouraging to improve my standards of teaching mathematics with accuracy, clarity, purpose and good judgement. Of course one is restricted by the study designs and the assessment regime; but within those limitations, one can still aim to minimise crappiness.

  3. If I may offer a suggestion… to be debated, corrected, improved, rebutted or simply ignored (no preference for any option):

    1. Mathematics teachers have, in general, not worked with Mathematicians for a long time. PD for Mathematics teachers is often run by other Mathematics teachers (of quite differing levels of quality, too) and when Mathematics teachers get to discuss ideas with other Mathematics teachers, the standard aim is to understand how to perfectly answer a VCAA question because that is, essentially, the end-goal of Mathematics teachers.

    2. School leaders, students, (the majority of) parents and (a not insignificant number of) other Mathematics teachers often don’t care whether the Mathematics is correct. They just want teachers to get the best results for students, hence point 1.

    3. Although there are some notable exceptions, very few schools have more than one Mathematics “teacher” capable of teaching Specialist Mathematics and some even don’t seem keen on recruiting more – focussing on “gap filling” and hiring teachers “qualified” in multiple areas.

    4. I could rant on this for a while, but my main frustration is that it is very difficult to isolate the source of these issues.

    1. Thanks, RF. Clearly, the marginalisation of mathematicians has led to the marginalisation of mathematics. Are you suggesting that this blog can somehow address/explore that issue directly and explicitly? (It’s of course implicit in a lot of the posts and comments.)

  4. I’m not, in as much as it already goes a long way to providing a space for discussion which just doesn’t happen where I work and that I think the issue would take a thesis of research to unravel – but if you’re willing I’m more than happy to read.

    I just wish that VCAA would somehow stop being such an easy target…

    1. RF, thanks for the comment:

      “it already goes a long way to providing a space for discussion”

      This is a very important point and I totally agree. I regret not saying it in my earlier post (got distracted by the Scooby Doo reference).

    1. Thanks again, RF. What is probably worthwhile along the lines you’re suggesting is some longer and more thoughtful posting on systemic issues, rather than just cheap shots at cheap (but worthy) targets. Alas, such posts take time.

      1. “Cheap shots at cheap (but worthy) targets” are fine by me, and I’d argue that many of these shots are very worthwhile and hit very well-deserving targets.

        One day, someone will take VCAA to VCAT (or even launch a class action) over circumstances that prompted a cheap shot and the cheap shot may prove to be not so cheap for VCAA.

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