No sooner do I mention Eric Walstein than Emily Messner’s long profile of him appears in the Washington Post. You get a vivid sense of this devoted and — um, what’s the opposite of soft-spoken? — educator, who’s been wrestling Montgomery kids through math since — well, I don’t know how long, but he was already an old hand when I met him. I was seven. He ran me through some arithmetic problems and bawled me out when I gave him an answer of “Two hundred and six.”
“There is NO SUCH NUMBER AS TWO HUNDRED AND SIX!” he told me. He wrote “206” on the board. “This number is called TWO HUNDRED SIX.”
OK, in restrospect, I don’t really understand why he needed to insist on this point. But I was tremendously impressed. I’d never met somebody who would have cared in the slightest how properly to pronounce “206.” Let alone somebody who would yell at a seven-year-old kid about it.
The article isn’t just about Walstein, but about the raging battle over how math is to be taught in Montgomery County, one of the fanciest public school systems in the country. Messner is to be commended for going a little deeper than “Are calculators good or bad? Are standardized tests good or bad? Are math education Ph.D.’s good or bad?” which is all one usually gets on this issue.
Also: more memories of Ted Widerski in the comments on Madison’s School Information System blog.