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math challanged personnel

updated thu 31 oct 96 on fri 11 oct 96

I thought I might join Karl Platt in pounding Vince about this math thing. I
have found about half of the few clay instructors I have had to be remarkably
inarticulate in discussing the most basic of operations. Some don t or can't
tell you anything at all until reminded by a student s problem, frustration,
or question. While the failings of math teachers are great, they, at least,
are struggling to overcome the difficulties of the abstract. I have had
"instruction" from people who could not communicate basic facts and ideas
about something they were literally into up to their elbows. They could,
however, do MFA Artbabble endlessly. Perhaps this indicated what they are
actually being trained in. (Ophthalmological Beam Removal Instruction
available upon request).
To move from the assassination of a single person s character, I suspect that
both instructional weaknesses are fostered by a society-wide acceptance of
ignorance. Ignorance is a pop\culture pose (some don t find it necessary to
pose) that is somehow glamorous as these individuals "strip down their lives
to the essentials" because they "don't need to know that ****." They are
therefore gleefully unaware of the myriad interlocking relationships (some
involving math) that make their postured lives possible but are righteously
enraged when their pager doesn t work or the toilet backs up. There isn t a
penalty for not knowing any more about your car s engine or the poisonous
chemicals you play with than you do about the processes in the core of the
sun; there should be a penalty for being proud of it.

In the Delaware Valley looking forward to the steam heat once the flames hit.
Joseph Herbert

Vince Pitelka on sun 13 oct 96

Joe -
You math whizzes are really sensitive about this thing. I guess you have to
justify all that time spent learning the abstract concepts of higher math.
Sorry you find my views so threatening.

I did not advance beyond college algebra, and I have forgotten even that,
because I never had any occasion to use it over the last 25 years. There is
no lacking in my ability to solve clay or glaze chemistry problem. To do
glaze chemistry you need intelligence and curiosity, a calculator, and a
basic understanding of chemistry, but you don't need higher math. A
facility in higher math certainly does allow you to approach ceramic
chemistry at a more technical and sophisticated level. Some are inclined in
that direction and good for them. We need them. But the average ceramics
student and ceramics professor has an appalling lack of facility in even
simple glaze chemistry, and lack of competency in higher math is the least
of our worries. Math/chemistry phobia, originating from the way these
fields are taught in our high schools and colleges, is so prevalent that
students are resistant to glaze chemistry, and many faculty simply do not
deal with it. What a sad miscarriage of ceramic education. I recognize the
problem, and I favor a more practical, sensible approach to glaze chemistry.
Call me a math wimp. It's true. But my students learn glaze chemistry in a
way that does not seem to be inhibited by whatever math/chemistry phobia
they might have.

I do not condone ignorance in any form, and I believe in broad diversity of
learning throughout life. A good life is a grand journey filled with
diverse experience. Any one with a healthy curiosity will pick up an
extraordinary amount of knowledge as the years go by. Some of it will be
applicable to career concerns. Some of it will be applicable to the
enrichment of the journey. Some of it will be applicable to absolutely
nothing. I try to concentrate on the first two.
- Vince

Vince Pitelka - vpitelka@Dekalb.Net
Phone - home 615/597-5376, work 615/597-6801
Appalachian Center for Crafts, Smithville TN 37166

Eleanora Eden on sun 13 oct 96

Hi All,

I'll just do a hit-and-run here as I always think it is a great thing to
be educated and an even better thing to be even better educated.

Everything we learn gives us an opportunity to open our windows wider.
If some of us chose to use the stuff we learn to be myopic it is too bad
but it happens to the best of us in various ways.

I like the glaze-formulation example as I have found, the times that I
have wrapped my little brain around that exercise that it was stimulating
and empowering. Didn't take that much math but it did take the same kind
of application and focus and I just wish I had the excuse to be so
exercised more frequently. I'd be better at it too. If I was more
comfortable with math it would probably not take such energy to get there.

Just my 2c.


Eleanora Eden 802 869-2003
Paradise Hill
Bellows Falls, VT 05101

Bob Hanlin on sun 13 oct 96

Apparently you don't know the same ceramics professors that I do. The ones
I know are throughly familiar with glaze calculations.

The world is full of things that require a moderate need for some
mathematical expertise. If you have a fear of that. OK

If you want to grow in that area, try harder. Math is really the easiest of
disciplines. All you have to do is recognize some forms and then proceed

>----------------------------Original message----------------------------

>I did not advance beyond college algebra, and I have forgotten even that,
>because I never had any occasion to use it over the last 25 years.
Bob Hanlin
3504 N. Tulsa
Oklahoma City, OK 73112


Kerr - M. Christine on mon 14 oct 96

all id really like a ceramics person to be able to do, really, is
recognize the difference between grams and kilograms so that the glazes
they prepare are done correctly. I am amazed at the number of people who
sort of use grams and kg interchangeably, and also those who cant figure
out how to convert a glaze formyla, given in percents, or worse, NOT in
percents, to a larger batch formula. Thats not too much math for anyone!