September 11, 2009 in Math

A relatively new program has been devised, with the blessing of the Dalai Lama, to instruct Tibetan monks and nuns in science and math. These students have little or no formal education in that area, but are adept learners and take to the material quickly and with interest.

My favorite quote from the NYT's report:

For the time being, university professors are needed for the summer science course. Monks and nuns may lack basic science education, but they are highly trained in other disciplines, like philosophy.

“They are sophisticated adult learners,” said Mark Risjord, professor of philosophy at Emory who taught math and logic this summer. During his weeklong unit, inquisitive monks pressed him for a method to “make deductively valid rules” and asked if different arguments can lead to the same conclusion.

Though these experiences have clear implications for how to structure math/science curricula, the obvious caveat is that in this case the students are professional, well, students. They have no problem dedicating themselves to day-long lectures on unfamiliar subjects. American high school and college students have somewhat different attitudes, and knowledge must be catered to their interests rather than being able to rely on their interest in knowledge itself.

(Via While My Coffee Slowly Brews)

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