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Paul Grobstein's picture

From math to reductionism as an aid to co-constructivity?

Rich/generative session facilitated by Rebecca, as evidenced both during the session and in conversation, after and below.  What I want to think more about is the issue of how to get students (at all ages) more engaged/comfortable with .... chemistry, biology, math, etc.  Intrigued by the notion that there is, in Keith's words, a tendency in some people to experience a frustrating disconnection with all of these because of ... a common tendency to try and make sense of things reductionistically?  Given a problem, one can try and make sense of it by thinking of it in relation to other somewhat similar things ... what I would call "lateral" thinking/inquiring/processing.   Alternatively, one can try and make sense of it by breaking it down into smaller things and those in turn into smaller things etc etc and then building things back up to the problem.  My sense is that many people aren't familiar with that strategy, lose track in the successive reductions of what the problem was that was is exploring the reductions to achieve.  If so, the problem that needs to be addressed isn't "math" or "science," but instead the inclination/ability to suspend disbelief through more focused inquiry while maintaining a sense of what is to be made sense of at a broader scale.  And the antidote is experiences that help one acquire confidence in such a procedure.  Like very much the suggestion that it would help to have "stories" at each step of reduction that help people keep in mind the relation between levels of reduction and the broader problem one hopes the reductions will help with.

All this connects, in interesting ways, to an evolving systems group discussion of "formal systems."  The unconscious always has understandings without one being able to say where they come from.  The formal systems process provides a set of conscious underpinnings for those understandings which can in turn both be more effectively tested and manipulated to yield alternative possible understandings.  Maybe what we need for the institute, in addition to a session on inquiry/conversation skills, is a session on formal systems?  As an additional way to enhance the generatory of co-constructive inquiry/conversation?


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