An interesting read from the Sudbury School where one of the teachers documented teaching 6 years worth of mathematics in 20 contact hours- because the children were ready and eager to learn…
In twenty weeks, after twenty contact hours, they had covered it all. Six years’ worth. Every one of them knew the material cold.
We celebrated the end of the classes with a rousing party. It wasn’t the first time, and wasn’t to be the last, that I was amazed at the success of our own cherished theories. They had worked here, with a vengeance.
Perhaps I should have been prepared for what happened, for what seemed to me to be a miracle. A week after it was all over, I talked to Alan White, who had been an elementary math specialist for years in the public schools and knew all the latest and best pedagogical methods.
I told him the story of my class.
He was not surprised.
“Why not?” I asked, amazed at his response. I was still reeling from the pace and thoroughness with which my “dirty dozen” had learned.
“Because everyone knows,” he answered, “that the subject matter itself isn’t that hard. What’s hard, virtually impossible, is beating it into the heads of youngsters who hate every step. The only way we have a ghost of a chance is to hammer away at the stuff bit by bit every day for years. Even then it does not work. Most of the sixth graders are mathematical illiterates. Give me a kid who wants to learn the stuff — well, twenty hours or so makes sense.”
I guess it does. It’s never taken much more than that ever since.