Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Teaching about thinking

The New York Times has an article about a grad course for math teachers. Doesn't sound like much of an article, does it? What is unusual about this course is that it is taught by a chess grandmaster.

Maurice Ashley is teaching a course on chess, not so the teachers will become great chess players but rather so they can learn to think - or at least think more deeply or in different ways. He is teaching them the strategies chess players use - to do things like
think backward with a desired outcome in view, generate multiple options as possible solutions to any question, consider the perspectives of others, and give respect to the least powerful, the pawns of the game.
He is quoted as saying:
"A lot of times in education we try to teach kids the one right answer and that leads, in my opinion, to robotic thinking," he told the players, encouraging them to think of multiple possible moves before choosing the best play. "Real life isn't like that. Is there ever one right answer? Generating alternatives for the sake of alternatives is a good thing."

I see so many teachers kind of on autopilot. They teach as they were taught, sometimes even teaching what they were taught. They believe there is a right answer - and, of course, may wrong answers - to everything. Sometimes I am one of them.

I am not a chess player, but maybe I should be.

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