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An Article of Fallacy

May 8, 2013

If A=B and C=B, it does not necessarily mean that A=C. There’s a name for this logical fallacy, but I can’t recall it. It only occurred to me because a student said today, “Potatoes have skin, I have skin, so I’m a potato.” I thought it was kind of clever of her. I wrote those equations on the board, which of course had nothing to do with identifying nouns in a paragraph, which is what they were supposed to be working on. I am that kind of teacher, who too easily gets led astray on an irrelevant tangent. But I must admit, those are exactly the kind of teachers and classes I loved most when I was in school.

Other students told me “this isn’t math class.” I explained that’s not math, it’s logic. (Though the same equation can be used in math, in which case it’s true and called the transitive property; however, identifying herself as a potato is not a mathematical statement. The day before I had written the words “a, an, the” on one line and “un, una, el, la, los, las” on the line below. I explained that these are called “articles” and they are a type of adjective and they have a certain purpose; of course, I was informed that “this isn’t Spanish class.” I told them that it’s useful to compare languages, to understand there are universal conventions that humans use… blah blah blah. I don’t know why I try to go on like this with 7th graders.

But my principal, in my evaluation conference today, said that it’s good I go on like this with 7th graders. They’re deepening their comprehension even if they don’t understand or realize it. Don’t just memorize and regurgitate, make connections. I’m quite sure they had no idea what a “logical fallacy” was when I said it out loud.

I also never really thought about articles. At what point did our caveman ancestors go from saying (not in English, obviously) “I have rock” to “I haveΒ a rock” or “I haveΒ the rock”? These are the most common words in all the English language, but why do they even exist in the first place? Does it really convey a different idea than the original? Is there some social status to announcing that you have one rock out of many, or you have the only rock of its kind? Deep thoughts. But I am still not a potato.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2013 10:49 pm

    A=B. and C=B. I am male, and God is male, therefore, I am God. >:D That’s how I’m going to write it in my Bible.

    On a serious note, insightful. This actually gives me some sort of idea about my own ventures.


    • May 9, 2013 7:28 pm

      What sort of idea sir?


      • May 9, 2013 7:39 pm

        Drawing connections. The “why” of poetry.


      • May 9, 2013 7:54 pm

        Poetry is its own “why” πŸ™‚


      • May 10, 2013 1:46 pm

        Yeah, it is, but people still ask the why of poetry. I tell people at work I write poetry, or people in class I write poetry, and you know what they ask me? “Why?” It constantly leaves me befuddled, because I figure it’s intuitive, but I’m a poet, and of course a poet would figure it’s intuitive.


  2. May 9, 2013 1:17 am

    Great blog…the teaching and sharing…I’ve thought back every once and awhile on a long ago experience in school…it didn’t make sense then, but the seed was planted! Thanks for the interesting post.


    • May 9, 2013 7:31 pm

      Thank you πŸ™‚ what did that seed grow into?


      • May 9, 2013 9:05 pm

        Well, right off the top of my head I remember one teacher talking about the Renaissance Man as compared to our contemporary pragmatic specialization…it was in context with “I’m going to be a writer! What do I need with math!”…now, everytime I see a doctor specialized in, let’s say knees, I say to myself: “but what if the problem is due to a bad back?” πŸ˜‰


  3. May 9, 2013 6:20 am

    I like your way of teaching. And your principal is right. It is more important to teach kids how to think than what to think. I am pretty sure this kid would love your style πŸ™‚


    • May 9, 2013 7:39 pm

      Not sure what to think about that kid. I appreciate his insight but I don’t know if he went about it the right way. No one likes their authority challenged in such a way… at the same time, if that really was her “teaching” style (packets), she does need help. But there’s so much context missing. I relied on far too many worksheets my first year because I was thrown into teaching a subject I knew little about. The student made some very true points though. It’s a double-edged sword… it’s just far too easy for teachers to become jaded, for so many reasons…


      • May 10, 2013 6:17 am

        Yes, you are write about the missing context. But I like the kid’s attitude. I have never seen a kid angry because the teacher is not good enough. At least not in Romania, where skipping classes and bribing teachers is what most of the kids do nowadays.


  4. May 9, 2013 7:54 am

    Wish I had such a math teacher when I was in school. honestly :o) But even with the most absurd theories I wasn’t able to divert my teacher…


  5. May 9, 2013 6:45 pm

    Sometimes, I feel like a potato … a couch potato. πŸ˜€


  6. May 11, 2013 4:46 pm

    Very philosophical and thought-provoking post, Bro. Or is that fallasophical? Hey, is a logical fallacy the same as illogical fellatio?

    And thanks for the reference above, even if you are calling me out as a math teacher. πŸ˜‰


    • May 14, 2013 10:15 pm

      Math teachers deserve the most love of all πŸ™‚ and I’m not sure if I can think of any scenario wherein fellatio would be illogical πŸ˜‰


  7. May 13, 2013 6:51 pm

    In 1972 I was in my first year as a primary school teacher. My class consisted of years 4,5 and six and was entirely made up of children that the other teachers, who were not new to this school, did not want.
    I don’t actually remember anyone giving me the maths curriculum for year groups but I do remember buying a heap of maths books from a newsagent………. they looked pretty cool and were aimed at being entertaining as well as laying out maths principles.
    The children enjoyed them and I found them easy to work with.
    The problem was that they were from another state and in that state they taught set theory at year four and onwards.
    I loved it because I have always loved logic and set theory is logic on a page. The kids loved it.
    I had a different attitude to teaching maths.
    I thought that you did not move on to the next concept until the child had grasped this one.
    The problem with this was that by the end of the year we had often only covered two thirds of the course for that year, particularly with the ‘slower’ kids.
    This used to worry me greatly.

    Fast forward a few years and I’m back in the area for some reason and I run into a couple of the teachers from the high school that most of my students would have gone to after they graduated from our school.
    I introduced myself and almost immediately one of the teachers says,”So you’re Mr X”.
    “Yes I am”.
    He explained that one of his ‘tricks’ to start off a new year was to get the children’s interest by teaching………………… set theory!
    “Because the children love it’.
    “But whenever I would introduce it a few of the children would say,’Mr X has been teaching us that for years’. Thanks a lot for that!”

    He also told me that my kids were the only ones that he did not have to go back over basic concepts with. ‘Your kids knew their stuff’.
    I remembered how hard these kids worked, but I also remember how damaged they were and how afraid of numbers they were so I had to ask, “Does that apply to the slower kids as well?” He said that they were a long way behind their age group but they were very clear on the basics.

    So much of being a new teacher is blind optimism. You often don’t get to hear how your kids get on.
    I was lucky because I got some feed back.

    By the way……….. the best teachers are the ones who follow the ‘tangents’ that the kids are interested in.

    Be well.


    • May 14, 2013 10:17 pm

      Thank you, Terry, for such a thoughtful and insightful reply! Well if tangential makes you good, then I’m not half-bad. I really liked hearing about the impact you had with those kids– given no resources and just rolling with what it looked like they would enjoy. You built a special legacy!


      • May 14, 2013 10:40 pm

        It was a lot of fun and I doubt that we would get away with half the stuff we got up to back then in this brave new world.



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