Since I’m following the faculty plagiarism case at Central Michigan University, I’m checking the local paper, where I just found this letter, from an ed student there:

Having been a student involved in the secondary education math program, I feel as though I should express my frustrations with those leading me in my schooling.

To graduate with a degree in secondary mathematics, one must take a series of cohorts that covers various math topics. While one going into the teaching field would expect to be taught various strategies and approaches to teaching math, this was not the case in several of these classes.

Throughout my course of study, I learned how to use the N-Spire, an expensive calculator that my professors expect administrators and math teachers to incorporate into the curriculum. I felt as though I was being taught to use an expensive piece of equipment to market to my future employers.

While I was not pleased with the education I was paying for, I kept my mouth shut because my professors stressed the importance of students being able to explore mathematics using tools such as the N-Spire.

They constantly reassured us that what we were learning was based on research that proved that this calculator is a crucial tool for learning through exploration…

The student concludes by complaining about the faculty plagiarists… I think. It’s a badly written letter. Very confusing. But it’s obviously got something to do with the multiple, still-anonymous plagiarists on the math faculty.

As *UD* scrutinized the letter, it seemed to her that the student was complaining about the commercialization of CMU’s classrooms. She seemed to be saying that, like medical school professors who in various ways hawk pharma’s newest pills to their students, some education school professors at her university turn their classrooms into extended advertising for devices a corporation is hoping Michigan’s teachers will buy for their classrooms.

So *UD* went here, to a page featuring Dennis St. John, one of the math professors listed on the plagiarized NSF grant.

This page, announcing a course featuring N-Spire and sponsored by its maker, Texas Instruments (you can register for the course through TI’s website), is offered at an off-campus location, but is a CMU course… St. John is pretty much described as a TI salesman:

He has presented workshops and institutes for Texas Instruments for the past twelve years. He … has published numerous activities and one book with Texas Instruments…

What’s going on?

November 7th, 2009 at 8:54PM

Every summer I am contacted by incoming freshmen asking what sort of calculator they should bring to campus. I reply, "one that you can use for balancing your checkbook and sorting out your phonebill…we don’t allow calculators in our calculus courses." They’re absolutely stunned. The idea of learning math without the crutch of a calculator that figures out the functions for them is inconceivable. Unfortunately, most high schools and the AP tests allow, even encourage, the use of TI calculators, which cripples many students in their pursuit of math in college, especially if they are not math geniuses and simply need to use calculus for engineering or a natural science program of study.

November 8th, 2009 at 9:01AM

"one must take a series of cohorts"–what does this mean, anyway?

Polish Peter, I never understood why anyone would need a calculator in a basic calculus course. The one I took was entirely proof-based, and if an exact numerical answer was required, they were not hard to do with pencil and paper. I say that I never understood…until I saw what they were doing at Tierfour State University down the road. "Calculus" there means learning how to enter the integrals/differentials into the calculator and plugging numbers in. Screw the idea of understanding what is actually going on.

November 8th, 2009 at 2:55PM

TP,

Indeed. For this and probably other reasons, a 5 on the BC calculus AP course is incapable of predicting whether a freshman will receive an A or a C- in our multivariable calculus course.