Mathematical Ceilings?

I found this really interesting article about people’s thoughts on the existence of mathematical ceilings (a level past which people will never be able to advance mathematically).
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2 thoughts on “Mathematical Ceilings?

  1. I feel like idea of a ‘cognitive breaking point’ misses like the 10 zillion other reasons why people stop doing math. These could involve that they don’t like math as a content or a specific kind of math content, that the pedagogical experience that they’re having is not currently working for them, that they don’t like the way math is used, that they don’t want to use it in their job, that teachers consistently underestimate them or misunderstand them, that their brother is the math person in the family, that they failed a remedial math class in college, that they are interested in art and not in math, and the list goes on infinitely. many people surely have several reasons for stopping doing math when they stop. I am generally very skeptical of “one cause” justifications for phenomena like this one.

    I think there are other reasons to take issue with “you just need enough grit” or the belief that “anyone can do anything therefore you should have to learn all the math that I say you should”… but I don’t think that the idea of a ‘cognitive breaking point’ is very helpful!

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  2. This is a very interesting article – I actually saw it shared on my Facebook feed around the same time you posted this – and it leads to an interesting educational question. Could we repair the “futon” once the ceiling is encountered? Could we go back and repair the foundation as preparation for further building?

    Moreover, could we show that the issue is a fault in the foundation rather than a fundamental limit (experimentally)? If we could show that the objective understanding/score/grade in math class B is determined by how complete the understanding is of previous math class A, then a new style of education could be put forward that respects that relationship. For instance, the letter grade for some class A is determined by the score achieved in the subsequent class B, and alternative explorations (rather than greater depth explorations) could be more prized.

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