Saturday, March 3, 2012

The usability of design...and of (math) education

It's really funny thinking how there is a constant demand for products to be designed not only aesthetically well, but also functionally effective. I thought the argument for good design should also extend to all aspects of things that are man-designed (and man-made). And this includes education. I was particularly disturbed a couple of weeks ago, when local news reports highlighted the various math questions that a regular 10-year old child (Primary 4 in local context) were supposed to be able to solve. 
What got my attention was the realism of the question, and not so much how the questions were posed. In my opinion, such measures that would want to develop the child's innate ability to solve real-world problems, should start with real-world (paper-based) problems too! I would think that the sum total of the test-setters' cognitive abilities should be able to come out with more 'real' and 'usable' problems, that would still test the students' understanding and application of things like heuristics and multiple-level methodologies of mathematical problem solving. I just hope that questions would begin to look more real, and usable, and perhaps, would be able to really, really educate our children in seeing real-problems as what they are....real problems, with perhaps, multiple answers...or no answers!

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