Whither Competition?

Now, this may seem like I'm contradicting the opinion of the guest blogger last week. However, I'm not referring to the endless pursuit of rankings and grades.


I'm meaning the fantastic things that can happen when competition is used as an instructional tool. I'm meaning having students race to solve puzzles, or sort number cards into Pythagorean triples. I'm meaning getting a wild energy in class, and having students speak up who never said a word before.

In most of the work on social technology I've been reading, it's paired with the word "cooperation". What happened to competition? Why is it so wrong?

This concerns me because mathematics is particularly suited to competition. Some competitions are downright legendary. Solving problems in high-level math competitions can lead to thinking that shatters the hierarchy of intelligences, creating wonderful things I still don't fully understand.

What's wrong with students competing to solve an Internet math hunt, or students challenging each to ever-harder problems?

I simply implore technology coordinators: please consider the possibilities competition can offer.

...

Goodness, it's been a week already? I feel like I've just nicked the surface of this territory. I'll try to continue with things I couldn't fit next week at my blog. I'd like to thank everyone for their comments; I learned much more than I ever suspected possible, and I'll be closely following this blog and others for new developments.

Jason Dyer, Guest Blogger

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