Math Phobics, Come One, Come All


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Donna Coveney
Email: coveney@mit.edu
Phone: 617-253-2709
MIT News Office

A "taste of infinity", like that offered in the magic of Shakespeare's words, is what MIT research physicist Alan Natapoff seeks to offer students in the language of math.

Natapoff says math is the simplest complicated language we have. Why then, is it so difficult for many students to learn? Because, says Natapoff, the methods for teaching aren't geared to the way our brains work.

Natapoff has come up with an entirely different way of teaching math, which, he says, allows everyone-including life-long math-phobic adults and learning disabled children alike-to learn math. He will be demonstrating this to a class including both children and adults at MIT in Building 37, Room 186 at 12pm on Wednesday, January 11.

"Methods for teaching math in public education haven't changed in a century," he says. "We get ten times as much practice learning the English language as math." Short-term memory registers in seconds. For retention in short-term memory, bits should be small. Rehearsal in small bits always works, he contends.

Participants will include Lou Salza, Assistant Principal of Hamilton-Wenham High School, formerly Principal at the Landmark School (who took the course himself), middle school students from the Hamilton-Wenham schools in Hamilton, MA, representatives from the Learning Disabilites Network, and a 12-year-old daughter of a former student, who has a learning disability.


Topics: Mathematics, Education, teaching, academics, Faculty

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