Too Much Terminology

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Extracted from
Colins Blog 2010

Too much terminology

This is a bona fide rant, with very little basis in research, or indeed in facts at all. I've ranted based on random snippets I've heard, and a degree of frustration that I get second hand from some of the teachers I have the honour of working with.

And I don't say "honour" lightly. I get to work with dedicated teachers who are occasionally struggling against the odds to impart an eduction despite the best efforts of the students, the parents and the system. Indeed, sometimes against the best efforts of their colleagues.

This is not a rant against teachers, it's a rant on their behalf. If I've got it wrong, email me and tell me. I'll definitely be listening.

Recently a teacher tweeted that they were struggling teaching surface area versus lateral area. I have to admit that I had to look up "lateral area". I know the words, but I didn't know the term in this context.

To me, it just seems to be surface area, but you only count some faces of the item in question. For a cylinder you don't count the top or bottom, for a prism you don't count the top or bottom, for a pyramid you don't count the bottom, and there is no top.

What about a frustum? That didn't seem clear. What about a hemisphere? I found no mention of that.

Perhaps the thing to do is to teach areas of faces, and then separately decide that sometimes we don't want some of them, such as the top or bottom. Then the students can work out which bits should be computed, and which bits to ignore.

But no doubt the students will say "Just tell me the answer!" and won't want to think about it. Thinking is hard, and to be avoided at all costs.

" Just give me the answer ! "

No wonder so many people are left with the impression that maths is just a bunch of disconnected, unmotivated and arbitrary rules. After all, that's what the student actually ask for.

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