Letter from a Concerned Student

A few days ago we received an email from “Concerned Student”, someone we don’t know, requesting advice on how to approach VCE mathematics. We have thoughts on this and intend to reply, but the email also seemed generally relevant and of likely interest. The email also raises interesting questions for teachers, and for the writer of this blog. With Concerned Student’s permission, we’ve reproduced their email below. We’ll hold off commenting until others, who actually know what they’re talking about, have had a go. Here is CS’s email:

It seems clear from reading this blog that a significant proportion of the VCE Methods & Specialist curricula are in direct conflict with good mathematical education. As someone entering these subjects next year, what’s the recommended approach to make it through all the content of the study design while also *learning maths*? Should I largely ignore the (… Cambridge) textbook and overall course and focus on self-teaching content along the same lines from better sources, stopping only to learn specifically from the curriculum whatever button mashing is necessary for an exam; or should I instead focus on fighting through the curriculum, and learn some proper maths on the side – I guess the productive question there is “is it easy enough to apply properly learnt maths to the arcane rituals found in VCE course assessments?”

It’s probably worth noting that, as far as I’m aware, the Methods & Specialist teachers at my school are known for being quite good, but they’re obviously still bound by the curriculum they teach.

The Mathematic Oath

Most people are familiar with doctors’ “Hippocratic Oath”:

First, do no harm.

Yes, this aphorism does not appear in the Hippocratic Oath, which is also probably not Hippocrates’. And, yes, the meaning of and fealty to this statement are not nearly so straight-forward. Still, the statement gives a beautifully clear and human principle, a guide on how to think about the difficult work of treating a person in one’s care.

Which brings us to mathematics. We feel that mathematics teachers need a similar guiding light, the Mathematic Oath:*

First, tell no lies.

As with the doctors’ oath, the implications of the Mathematic Oath are not obvious, respecting the oath is not always so simple. But it is a light, telling us the way. And it also tells us the wrong way: if you are a mathematics teacher and you are not telling your students the truth, then you are doing wrong.


*) Yes, it is an oath for all teachers.


Another Message to Fellow Melburnians

1) Stay home.

2) If you don’t stay home, wear a fucking mask.

3) Forget that, just stay home.

UPDATE (22/07)

Some gentle observations, after our first shopping trip in a month, and with Uncle Dan on the car radio:

4) If you’re sick and you don’t isolate before your test, you’re a fucking moron.

5) If you’re tested and you don’t isolate before your results, you’re a fucking moron. 

6) Just because it is not yet mandatory to wear a mask, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, you fucking morons. 

7) Bunnings is lying through their fucking teeth.