Nine- and 10-year-old children in England who participated in a philosophy class once a week over the course of a year significantly boosted their math and literacy skills, with disadvantaged students showing the most significant gains, according to a large and well-designed study (pdf).
More than 3,000 kids in 48 schools across England participated in weekly discussions about concepts such as truth, justice, friendship, and knowledge, with time carved out for silent reflection, question making, question airing, and building on one another’s thoughts and ideas. More.
Unlike many edu-advocacy findings, this one makes sense. Philosophy teaches us to think in a systematic way. It’s hard to see how that wouldn’t help with math and literacy.
But make no mistake. Lots of people today think that scientists dumping on philosophy are proving that scientists are smarter than philosophers. And, guess what!, so are their hearers! Funny that.
See also: Do scientists “believe” things?
Bill Nye Embarrasses Himself (Barry Arrington and commenters)
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31 Replies to “Philosophy makes kids smarter in math”
Science and computer programming teaches us to think in a systematic way.
Unfortunately you and many others (in England is no exception) never learned that.
Computer programming doesn’t teach anything but what it teaches.
What is science? memorizing things?
These are dumb kids.
Its more likely a selection issue.
Those kids interested in philosophy type things would do better.
Its just showing motivation.
I don’t see why it would sharpen them up.
“Science and computer programming teaches us to think in a systematic way.”
Taking the position that science and computer programming teach us to think is a systematic way is a philosophy.
Andrew, taking the position that science and computer programming teach us to think is a systematic way is from my own personal experience, which later made it possible to figure out what my high school Algebra teacher was trying to say that made no sense at all to me at the time. I now regularly use the concepts that I flunked while in high school.
I now also routinely use trigonometry for computer modeling, and I never took a single math class in that either.
And I think we can rightfully suspect that what is happening in England being heralded in this forum is part of a scam to teach religion as “philosophy” in at least the US public schools.
Why not simply that taking these other subjects motivated you to pay attention more and then you did the math stuff better. Yet skateboarding or drums would of done the same thing. To your credit , not the subjects, you just got more attentive.
News (attn GG), learning to think clearly and deeply through questioning will patently improve logical ability. As well as, insight into key concepts and the care with which one uses language. The Socratic type methods are also interactive and team-building . . . important factors in Blooms 2 sigma effect. Computer science and programming would also have an impact, and I think the Furber Royal Society report should be taken seriously. KF
KF what is wrong with properly teaching what the “scientific method” is and how its “theories” are based upon testable “models” not “philosophy”?
There is no one size fits all and only science the scientific method . . . a result in history and philosophy of science involving logic and epistemology. That is the question of a scientific method is philosophical. Consider, limitations of inductive and deductive reasoning.
There is no serious thought that exists isolated from philosophical considerations.
In the above, as one who has had to ponder education issues, I gave a quick summary of ways it makes sense for the observed results to happen.
There actually is an underlying methodology. The ID theory explains the 4 requirement model to demonstrate its source, our brain itself.
In addition to other examples: for science journals the “peer-review” is the “confidence” part of the mechanism. When confidence in a submission being true is below a certain threshold its author(s) are forced to take a best guess what will work better for the reviewers. High confidence submissions/memories are good to go the way they are, remain the same. That’s also how memories are stored in the model’s RAM array.
As in the cognitive model in the ID theory the result is a self-correcting trial and error method for learning new knowledge.
The “scientific method” is right in front of you, all over the place.
There is a focal issue for which your remarks are tangential. I have already noted on reasonable grounds why the exercises in the OP are likely to have good educational impact.
However, for a note, when researchers investigated how science is done and what methods underlie it, no consistent one size fits all method emerges that fits all and only science.
There is considerable overlap with general approaches to prudent investigation in many fields (an overlap of essentially philosophical character) but that is not enough to characterise science as a distinct demarked endeavour — the demarcation approach is a failure. And, famously, the problem of methodological diversity is such that Feyerabend wrote in dismissal of methods. This is, for instance why — in trying to impose methodological naturalism as a criterion of science — the US National Science Teachers Association was forced to acknowledge:
The ideological imposition and loaded, question begging agendas are patent. But, so is the major, telling concession. And I would suggest that critical awareness regarding limitations of our thought, observation and reasoning is not to be equated with skepticism imagined to be a scientific or epistemic virtue.
And I write as someone who has taught the sort of school level generic summmaries that are popular in textbooks (I developed my own mnemonic, O HI PET . . .observation, hypothesis, inference and prediction, empirical testing that helps with design of experiments at school level), which seems to trace to Newton’s Query 31 in Opticks as a key source.
It is worth the while to cite that, as it brings out nuances and limitations that are too often overlooked or glossed over:
Notice the provisionality and intertwining with phil considerations.
As Stanford Enc of Phil notes of Feyerabend’s Against Method:
In short, the picture is far more complex and deeply entangled with philosophical considerations than we often think.
Yes, that is why I have so many different examples of the same thing. There are babies dropping spoons and kids being kids, while scientists try to make peer reviewers confident in their work, while a music performer “reads their audience” to gauge confidence in their muscle (includes vocal) actions working or not and below a certain confidence level they take a best guess what will work better the next time a song is performed.
The “scientific method” is in the way we think, not something scientists invented only they use.
PS: Do not forget the saying that a new paradigm advances one funeral at a time.
PPS: This latest exchange is an illustration of yet another benefit of early exposure to philosophical thought.
Without the science basics having been properly taught the philosophy I see being proposed only serves to further mislead students in regards to what scientific theories are based upon.
If Charles Darwin had a personal computer and more info then he would have written the first Evolutionary Algorithm. But since PC’s were later invented someone else progragammed it first, for him. As with Darwinian theory a programmable model must still be at the heart of it, or else it’s not able to be taken as a serious theory. This can to some sound unfair. Yet I still expect ID theory to antiquate all the “natural selection” based models for “evolution” with a model for “intelligent cause”.
The hallmark of scientific theories is they model the universe or something else. And Albert Einstein did not chant “spacetime looks curved to me” his theory had to work as advertised when computer modeled.
Like it or not the same applies to ID theory. MN or not it’s otherwise just hunches people get bored hearing repeated then they can no longer endure any more of.
For the ID movement to succeed there has to be something new for a scientific model to help figure out how all in biology works. Otherwise it’s just more internet clutter of stuff to dig through while searching for theory based on a tested model that can.
GG, Enough has now been said to you to answer to the need for balance in our intellectual approach. Beyond this point there is no further need to say more than, enough has been pointed out. KF
News: I suggest that the ongoing Tablet PC revolution (notice the rise of the “two in one” transformation of laptops and the convergence implied by the rise of large screen smart TVs as in effect giant tablets for groups) opens up opportunities for cost effective creation of highly interactive and highly stimulating education approaches that target the individual learner and his or her growth in understanding and ability based on the conceptual structure of relevant core disciplines. I think we need to take a close look at the Khan Academy phenomenon, in this regard. In this context, the report that the sort of highly interactive discussion that a phil unit introduces has positive impacts on core subjects such as English and Mathematics, is a very welcome development. I will take away from the above exchange with GG, that a historically and philosophically informed backgrounder on science and its methods — note the plural — should be part of such exposure. From Furber et al, in the Royal Society Report on Computing in Schools of Feb 2012, I suggest that we should also pursue introductory computer science using something like the Scratch language, as this will teach process logic and logic relevant to the logical study of structure and quantity aka Mathematics. KF
KF what are vital are the logical operators AND, OR and NOT and how from that alone is made NAND, NOR, XOR and all the rest of the possible logic gates in smart phones and other digital devices.
Only the first three logical operators matter. English grammar teachers have to explain the relationship anyway. Including the writing of If..(AND, OR or NOT)..Then..Else statements. I always make sure to put the “then” in the sentence not comma, which is where a student also has to first start. Seems more clear that way.
In Algebra class the concept of “mirroring” and others my Algebra teacher lost me on (by only having arrows on a chalkboard while trying to mime out the relationship) needs to be shown in code so that students and teachers are spared my bad experience with “equations”. What was so simple about it was not shown. PC’s were not around yet, but when they were it was something I figured out by writing code moving pixels around on the screen. I then right away knew what she was talking about, but by then it was years too late to not flunk the tests.
Students writing programs of their own could be optional, for the born to be scientists who only need a CD with tutorial or booklet for those who want one. Preferably including a fast BASIC, like Visual Basic but simpler, with ID Lab in it so that the born-to-be scientists of the world who of course like me needed to know how to program something as “Alive!!!!” as digital electronics allows. In that realm a model and theory for “intelligent cause” is as awesome as it gets. Especially when it includes what Nobel Prize winning Edvard Moser and others in neuroscience have been discovering about how our brain maps/models what we see happening, which in the model I came up with to explain their results really brings an intelligence to life.
With there already being limited class time in a K-12 education and not all students the same that is all I can think of that is vital that is somehow related to philosophy.
In regards to what a “scientific theory” is the students who experiment with the code from the ID Lab have that as an example of what it looks like when a theory is based upon a testable model. To find out what it looks like when not, you can think of me as a bored high school science student ready to at home try out any creation of living things theory you got then make sure the whole school knows about it. Explain to me what the (as you see it) theory of intelligent design offers to make me rather that than zapping virtual critters of my own design and all else then possible. If that was around when I was in grade school then I would have worked all evening into night plus weekends until I had all that figured out. As back when I was young teachers could tell I had a talent for science, which my Algebra teacher knew about too and that made matters worse. I should have been the first to have figured it out but did not know what was missing, or what else she could do to help. If either of us had known then I would have aced her class real easy. Anyway, I am as back then a good example of the student you need to reach with your science theory, and I will let you explain what you have for me instead. If you help make sense of what I want(ed) and need(ed) to know then I’ll love you for it. And would teachers stuck with a me. So I’ll let you explain what you have that I in the classroom (any subject) absolutely need to know, and what you have to keep me busy at home on a science project.
GG, quick note, NAND and NOR are actually more foundational logically and electronically. The phil approach comes in through teaching kids to think worldviewishly and logically. I think Venn Diagram approaches capture the essence of syllogisms and the recent discussion on classical quantification should be dealt with as it affects square of opposition. Here is my quick primer on basics of straight thinking: http://www.angelfire.com/pro/k.....inking.pdf while this is on spin games: http://www.angelfire.com/pro/k.....r_spin.htm And I think a lot of unnecessary stuff is in grade school and forms 1 – 3 edu, selective pruning and refactoring is indicated. I think some refactored civics and general studies take in much of required phil issues, and comp sci should refactor exposure to ICTs. KF
Garbage like that would have made me want out of whatever useless science classroom would consider that crap to be “science”.
You are trying to teach how to blindly believe whatever you call “evidence” and accept theories that explain how NOTHING works, no testable model in them at all. That’s sad. Poor students.
You must really hate science, and badly want to destroy it.
Don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel. 😛
I guess this is what happens when philosophers and lawyers teach “science”. From KF’s science presentation:
Perhaps it has not registered that the summary presentation was regarding critical thinking i/l/o basic worldview construction and included as one component the following on Science:
–> I would suggest that this should be instantly recognisable to anyone who has done a basic school level course in science.
[Slides 8, 9, 10, 11 then draw out several sci-tech related themes]
What you have snipped out of context to set up and knock over a strawman caricature is a discussion on the worldviews linked nature of chains of argument in Slides 13 – 14.
That is, here we have a simplified approach to the nature and inevitability of worldviews and their first plausible key presuppositions. And yes, in the end all worldviews embed faith commitments to first plausibles, so are faith based systems. The issue, is to hold a reasonable, responsible, fair minded faith point, not an unreasonable, irresponsible one. And that is inescapably locked into the challenge of infinite regress vs our finitude, fallibility, intellectual-moral struggles and too often our want of good will.
Your dismissiveness fails, your resort to coarse language as a substitute for sound and fair evaluation is telling and your mischaracterisations fail.
Slide 7 laid out the schools level sci method summary, though obviously the generic approach is significantly overlapping with responsible approaches in decision making/management, forensics, history and more. It also needs to be filled out with specifics of particular cases to become substantially relevant, which is what key exemplars are useful for.
Slide 8 is relevant also:
This brings out logic issues connected to inductive reasoning and linked basis and reliability of knowledge claims concerns.
Likewise, slide 9 adds:
This further brings out logic issues connected to scientific reasoning.
So, we see that scientific approaches must inherently be subject to issues in logic and epistemology. These are two of the five or so main branches of philosophy.
In short, as Newton full well knew, what we today call science cannot responsibly be severed from such considerations.
Your accusations above (cf comment 20) that I must somehow hate and want to destroy science, fail.
It’s quite obvious KF that an academic sounding philosophy presentation is being used to promote “faith” not “science”. Instead of programming a computer model or other scientific activity the students are forced to try figuring a logical mess then answer questions like “So, which faith is most reasonable? Why?”
Although at first glance the presentation looks like typical science classroom instruction, what a hypothesis and theory are was never explained. It only confuses the most basic concepts in a way that adds up to sabotaging nonsense that should never be taught, to anyone.
Instead of teaching that a scientific theory is a model based explanation for how something works or happened a theory become a question of “faith” that all are expected to religiously philosophize over. That is so absurd I wonder whether your presentation is supposed to be taken as satire but you missed the clues.
GG, did you notice the above is a summary on a range of worldview foundational, critical thinking issues? That, scientific methods are part of that in a context of the grounding of reason? Are you able to see that no chain of warrant can be an infinite regress and so we always face the issue of presuppositions? Do you see what that entails for every worldview, a basis of first plausible beliefs, which may properly be termed a faith-point? Have you been so programmed that “faith” triggers visceral hostility in the teeth of the clear import of chains of warrant? Do you not then see what you said of yourself when you reacted with strawman caricatures and coarse language above? Do you not realise that science is inherently provisional, as the two major revolutions since the 1600’s in my home discipline, physics, demonstrate? Have you ever pondered the plate tectonics revolution? Others? I suggest to you that EVERY intellectual quest inextricably embeds faith points and first plausibles, such that our challenge is to be responsible and reasonable in our beliefs and in our frames of thought including scientific, technological and mathematical ones. BTW, by definition models are simplifications of reality thus are false though useful in regions of validity, theories seek to be true but are provisional inherently, and inferences to best so far explanations have counter flow between direction of implication/ explanation . . . IF T then O . . and observation of supporting fact . . . O is seen so we support T as plausible though subject to potential falsification, leading to the problem brought out by the tom the pig example. I think you would do well to think again. KF
PS: The common assumption that faith means belief without or in the teeth of supporting or observable evidence is a gross distortion. There can be blind or ill informed belief but that is not equal to faith, That is why we face a challenge of moving to a reasonable faith point per comparative difficulties. And this INCLUDES the scientific and mathematical etc views we hold.
PPS: You also need to correct your equating of religious thought with philosophy. They are not at all the same, and it is beginning to look like a defensive rhetorical move to brush aside phil issues by tagging them with a label that is often sneered at.
FYI, The O, HI PET framework above is based on teaching students experiment design techniques: observation/ exploratory studies, model/ hypothesis testing, measurement studies and the like, using designs appropriate to each. Indeed, Pet was a student of mine now living with her family in the USA so the little framework was meaningful for students who also knew Pet. KF.
Yes KF I noticed all the “science is provisional” type warnings in your “faith” based alternative scientific method.
Considering how it is one long argument against ever developing the reasoning skills required to develop scientific models/theories it’s necessary to start from scratch on that one. But luckily I am now scheduled to discuss the common ordinary Philosophy-Free Scientific Method at the upcoming Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism Online Conference.
I’m ending up having to more or less fix the whole presentation for you. It needs the simple to learn 5 word operational definition for hypothesis that US preschool children already learn from PBS “Dinosaur Train”, which sure makes a science teacher’s job easier. What goes by the name of the “scientific theory” is defined by what they contain that makes them scientifically useful for objectively testing hypotheses, answering questions. There is then no issue with scientists in regards to the two all important basic parts (hypotheses and theories) of the mechanism where they work together to discover new knowledge from the old.
As I was explaining in earlier threads Methodological Naturalism can be made gone from science, so I agree that alternatives are possible. The only problem with alternatives is they too become something that can equally be made gone too.
The basics of cognitive science make it easy enough to eliminate the philosophizing, yours do not belong there either. Ironically though (even with ID theory left a separate topic) students would already know why the ID Lab has the kind of system that it does and understand how it works. It’s one of the rewards for having a well thought out model that is truly useful for answering questions people have like “What the heck is this Scientific Method illustration trying to show me?”
Scientific theories are a testable way of making how things work self-evident by using common sense. Your need to make it seem otherwise is from not having a scientific theory, just faith that you do. If you actually did then explaining the scientific method and other complicated sounding concepts would become child’s play, like they became for me.
GG, at this stage it is obvious that there is no basis for a reasonable discussion. I simply note that provisionality of scientific findings and theories is a commonplace, well known consequence of inductive logic. In my home discipline, physics, we had the Copernican-Galileo-Newtonian revolution across the 1500s and 1600s and from 1880 to 1930 the transformation to modern physics. Where, BTW, scientific findings are not self-evident, necessarily true on understanding them on pain of absurdity on attempted denial. As to wider worldviews issues, the basic logic of warrant forces us to chain back to a choice of infinite regress . . . absurd, or else a cluster of first plausibles taken on trust. These define a worldview’s core presuppositions, its faith-point; so also by comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power to avoid question begging circularity. This may be unpalatable to you and obviously triggers sharp reaction but it is clear that you cannot actually undermine its force. G’day. KF
F/N: Newton, Opticks Query 31 as already clipped above but obviously overlooked:
>>As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses [= metaphysical speculations not anchored to the empirical] are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. [ yes, he spoke in terms of natural philosophy grounding knowledge of the empirical world] And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations.>>