Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Mathematicians Might Learn From Physicists: Response to Wurman

Some blog followers might be interested in a recent discussion-list post “What Mathematicians Might Learn From Physicists: Response to Wurman” [Hake (2012)]. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: In my post “What Mathematicians Might Learn From Physicists: Response to Hansen” at, I paraphrased Hansen's answers at to David Bressoud's question at : “Why doesn’t the existence of research-based instructional strategies (RBIS) together with documentation of their effectiveness guarantee their widespread adoption?” as follows:

The physicists’ research based instructional strategies [RBIS]:

1. appear very compromised, designed as they are for only academically uninterested terminal students;

2. lack the essentials for academically interested students: rigor, detail, development, and challenge;

3. claim to be “successful,” but here the accepted notion of “success” is replaced with something entirely different;

4. doomed because they don’t produce advocates.


[Note: I think Hansen's slightly corrected four paraphrased answers at are also blatantly incorrect.]

In response, Ze’ev Wurman in a Math-Learn post at excused himself from any detailed analysis of Hansen’s answers with this vague statement: “Hake then tries to reject Hansen’s arguments. Unsuccessfully as far as I am concerned, but that is neither here nor there.” Instead Wurman concentrated on nitpicking my offhand criticism of Hansen’s misuse of disinterested to mean uninterested. Accordingly, this post is in two parts:

PART I: “Hansen’s Use of Disinterested to Mean Uninterested Is a Linguistic Atrocity,” for those interested in linguistics;

PART II. “Wurman’s Long Record of Uninformed Arguments in Favor of Bad Educational Ideas,” for those interested in education: Examples – Wurman’s advocacy of:
A. Diverting K-12 Funding From Librarians to Teachers,
B. Direct Instruction Over Hands- and Minds-On Pedagogy,
C. Phonics Over Whole Language for Reading Instruction.

To access the complete 61 kB post please click on

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Links to Articles:
Links to SDI Labs:

“Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheep-like passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving. Not that it always effects this result; but that conflict is a sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity.”
- John Dewey “Morals Are Human,” Dewey: Middle Works, Vol.14, p. 207

REFERENCES [URL shortened by and accessed on 23 August 2012.]
Hake, R.R. 2012. “What Mathematicians Might Learn From Physicists: Response to Wurman,” online on the OPEN AERA-L archives at Post of 23 Aug 2012 14:56:24-0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to several discussion lists..

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