It's not class sizes, it's ability diversity and capacity for handling student questions

May 04, 2017 02:35AM
Imagine a class where every student was on the same level, and followed the subjects in lock-step. Maybe they first understand polynomial single-variable differentiation, then they get exponentials, logarithms, chain rule, etc. If any student has a question, all other students also have that question. When the teacher answers, all students learn at the same time.

This is ability homogeneity, and it works wonders. It's the same reason why before a corporate meeting you make sure everyone's read the agenda, everyone is "on the same page".

Even with perfect homogeneity, sometimes students have different questions maybe due to scheduling or just variances in performance across the day. That's when the teacher needs to offer enough bandwidth to address all of their questions.

It SEEMS like class size is having an effect because there aren't that many students which share the same (narrow) ability band. Now if you're located in a dense urban centre, you could potentially have many students of very close abilities in one class.

Edit to add: I suppose cultural influences could be important. If the child is unused to being one in a crowd, it could hamper his psychological well-being and thus learning-rate. But that's a secondary impact, not a direct impact of class sizes on teaching quality.


Re: home environment. Agreed, this is absolutely a huge factor, on the same order of magnitude as natural intelligence.


Re: mathematical aptitude testing. This is a chicken and egg problem. If they're testing children on learned material then it's not an aptitude test. But if they give tests like Raven's Advanced Matrices (series of pictures for pattern-recognition) then some parents whose offspring have done rote memorization but lack raw pattern recognition power will protest. It's a hard call for the teachers to make: you can't please everyone. I guess the best solution for a parent whose offspring are untrained but talented would be to have the child take extra time to study for the aptitude test. But this is a vicious cycle and parents will just race one another to give their children the best training. I've seen some children grow up neurotic from all the stress put upon them by their parents (one of my friends is a classic example of this).

I hope a personal anecdote can ease some of your concerns about your children getting into the "right bracket". Many people I've worked with or studied with were very fortunate to be naturally intelligent, and not all of them were always in the "right environment". I'll give two examples (one is myself), but there are many more:

(1) My parents, while not poor, were NOT at all prepared for parenting. They did nothing to push me or prepare me, and even forgot to sign me up for primary school and the government had to remind them that it was illegal not to send your child to primary school. The consequence was that I lazed around all day as a young child, and did not get selected into the top-tier group for "gifted children" at 10 years old, and was in the second-tier group instead. None of that mattered at all once I got my hands on actual schooling material, and now I have one of those ridiculously rarefied academic records. (Deleted: initially I included details, but it did seem gauche to toot my own horn and it doesn't add to the story)

(2) Another one of my friends did Maths at Cambridge (my vote for one of the hardest undergrad courses in the English-speaking world to complete), but he grew up as a kid in a poor northern city with unemployed parents on benefits. His middle school was so bad that he was the only single student in his year to make it into Oxford/Cambridge.

Main point: children are more resilient than their parents give them credit for. If they have a combination of intelligence, ambition, and impulse-control (discipline), they will make it, as long as you don't actively screw them up. Being in a low bracket school for a while is pretty unlikely to harm their long-term prospects.


In contrast to many other liberals, I'm going out on a limb to say: the comfortable story about "everyone can be _good_ at maths if they try" is just a lie. Not everyone is equally good at maths, in fact the natural aptitude for this subject is very unequally distributed in the population. There's a greater gulf between John von Neumann and your average maths major, than the gulf between the average maths major and the average chap on the street.

There is such a thing as natural (especially mathematical) intelligence, and lying about it simply holds us back and makes us worse at teaching. Students who lack natural aptitude should be focusing on preparing for and nailing easy rote questions. They should also not take highly mathematical disciplines in university (or not go to university at all, if they lack other non-mathematical aptitudes as well).

However, I will admit that pre-University maths is so easy that the vast majority of the population, with hard work, should be able to pass the tests. Many of them won't truly "understand" it, but they can memorize the formulae and use them in the exam to pass.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/04/2017 02:56AM by starbright.
Subject Author Posted

Meet a liberal day. (the issues only).

physics May 02, 2017 09:39AM

Re: Meet a liberal day. (the issues only).

Rade May 20, 2017 12:06PM

Re: Meet a liberal day. (the issues only).

Quixotic May 22, 2017 04:55PM

Re: Meet a liberal day. (the issues only).

Rade May 22, 2017 08:41PM

I am curious about your underlying assumptions.

Quixotic May 23, 2017 03:44PM

Re: I am curious about your underlying assumptions.

Rade May 24, 2017 04:59AM

To be fair

Kstatida May 21, 2017 02:35AM

Read _Dark Money_

Quixotic May 14, 2017 05:14PM

You're right about abortion. We also need infanticide clinics.

Rhyaldrin May 04, 2017 03:55PM

Hah (n/t)

TJHuron May 06, 2017 03:51AM

That's a good way, I also propose an enhancement

Kstatida May 04, 2017 10:00PM

Re: Meet a liberal day. (the issues only).

Balrahd May 03, 2017 10:04AM

my manifesto. txt

Isildur(VIP) May 10, 2017 07:42AM

As a citizen of country with VAT, I'm obliged to say

Kstatida May 10, 2017 08:21AM

Re: As a citizen of country with VAT, I'm obliged to say

Isildur(VIP) May 10, 2017 09:40AM

Re: As a citizen of country with VAT, I'm obliged to say

Kstatida May 10, 2017 10:12PM

some observations about this: txt

Isildur(VIP) May 10, 2017 07:52AM

we definitely need more death...ahem...estate taxes.

The Forsaken(VIP) May 03, 2017 12:52PM

Re: Meet a liberal day. (the issues only).

Jib May 03, 2017 10:45AM

Re: Meet a liberal day. (the issues only).

Balrahd May 03, 2017 11:13AM

Gotcha.

Jib May 03, 2017 12:12PM

Filing separately only makes the marriage penalty worse

zannon May 04, 2017 02:26AM

There can be a marriage penalty

zannon May 03, 2017 11:04AM

Taxes are a tough thing to fix

zannon May 03, 2017 10:13AM

Re: Child credit is capped but there is a floor of $600

Balrahd May 03, 2017 11:05AM

Re: Trump tax plan

Jib May 03, 2017 12:05PM

I hate labels.

Jib May 02, 2017 10:24PM

Publically funded religious schools are unconstitutional

physics May 03, 2017 03:02AM

debatable. txt

Isildur(VIP) May 04, 2017 12:57PM

Call it a private school tax credit and let me decide what to do with it.

Jib May 03, 2017 07:56AM

It's not the public-ness of the school that is the problem

starbright May 03, 2017 11:04AM

Re: It's not the public-ness of the school that is the problem

Balrahd May 04, 2017 12:39AM

It's not class sizes, it's ability diversity and capacity for handling student questions

starbright May 04, 2017 02:35AM

Re: It's not class sizes, it's ability diversity and capacity for handling student questions

Balrahd May 04, 2017 10:24AM

I think, encourage what they are interested in.

Jib May 04, 2017 12:18PM

Yeah, actually you're right that most pursuits have an unequal talent distribution

starbright May 04, 2017 11:18AM

I don't really know about U.S., do you have academic contests or something?

Kstatida May 04, 2017 11:14AM

No. Everyone needs a participation prize. We don't want kids to feel bad about losing.

Jib May 04, 2017 12:21PM

^ recommended by Lenin to read and think on

Kstatida May 04, 2017 12:56AM

Re: recommended by Lenin

Murphy May 04, 2017 06:19AM

#4 is most important to me

PaulO May 03, 2017 06:58PM

I agree.

Jib May 03, 2017 12:33PM

Interesting correlations with schooling outcomes

starbright May 03, 2017 11:45PM

we need mo' money for dem programs. (n/t)

Rhyaldrin May 04, 2017 12:00AM

Re: we need mo' money for dem programs.

Kstatida May 04, 2017 12:51AM

gibs me dat. (n/t)

Rhyaldrin May 04, 2017 01:07AM

It's equalization that makes public schools bad

Kstatida May 03, 2017 08:05AM

Yep, exactly.

Jib May 03, 2017 08:20AM

That's interesting

Kstatida May 03, 2017 08:22AM

The argument is, that educating them is better than having masses of uneducated kids growing up into masses of uneducated, poor adults.

Jib May 03, 2017 08:35AM

So they're not exactly illegal

Kstatida May 03, 2017 08:37AM

Something like that.

Jib May 03, 2017 08:44AM

Hi. Meet a right-leaning anarchist total-isolationist traditionalist.

PaulO May 02, 2017 12:28PM

not to trumpet late stage capitalism, but, it applies here

The Forsaken(VIP) May 03, 2017 05:40AM

The problem with cronyism

PaulO May 03, 2017 06:45PM

The liberal economic dream.

physics May 02, 2017 01:26PM

Women's liberation is the reason for wage stagnation, not greedy rich people

Rade May 22, 2017 06:23PM

Because we are a country of Wealth worshippers

ORB May 03, 2017 04:53AM

This wall of text is offensive.

Rhyaldrin May 03, 2017 07:29PM

Buy local, even if it is more expensive. (n/t)

PaulO May 03, 2017 06:47PM

That's the rule I live by. My wife hates me for this

Kstatida May 03, 2017 11:08PM

Yeah agree that there is an unwarranted worship of the wealthy

starbright May 03, 2017 10:44AM

Funnily enough

Kstatida May 03, 2017 05:04AM

liberal economic lies vs. conservative economic lies

PaulO May 02, 2017 04:15PM

Re: The liberal economic dream.

Jib May 02, 2017 01:57PM

As another liberal agree with most of your points

starbright May 02, 2017 12:09PM



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