I'm sure you've seen at least one news story on the "success" of Kahn Academy -- over 2,400 videos delivered over 64 million times. With those kind of numbers, the site has to be good, right?
Mathalicious have written an open letter to Sal Kahn, the man behind Kahn Academy. Mathalicious is a site that provides free math lessons that relate math to real world situations. (One I just looked at today used the dimensions of the iPad and iPod to teach about ratio and proportion. Great stuff!) If anyone should be getting attention from the media in droves, in my opinion, it should be Mathalicious. They are doing the heavy lifting. Instead of just describing a step-by-step, mechanical process for solving math problems, they take the more challenging, and more effective route. They engage students in real-world situations first. Students discover the need for math to solve a curious problem. Having a real need to know the math provides the motivation to learn and remember.
Think about times when you are faced with math problems. Do you find yourself thinking something like, "Oh, yeah! I have to do step 4 of the process Mr. Rosenblath taught me."? Or, are you more likely to think something like, "This is a lot like the garden area problem." Ok, maybe you don't think either. Maybe the math you most often face you can solve in a very robotic way because you've done it a million times before. But if you can think back to when you were first learning math, you might have thought about Mr. Rosenblath's step 4 when you were solving problems with no connection to the real world. And that's ok. But we want students to get beyond that because, honestly, you will never meet a troll who will require you to divide 37,465 by 492 before you can cross a bridge. We want students to be able to apply math skills.