“School as we set it up is tailor-made for certain personality types. I like to think of certain scales of oppositions: like obsessional-compulsives and hysterics. This is a little over-simplified. but will help us talk quickly. Our hyperactive child is toward the extreme end of the hysteric scale. The hysteric likes generalities, likes dramatic effects, doesn’t like precise detail. The obsessional-compulsive likes little detail [s], likes the static, likes things you can examine closely.
When we look at school math, it’s tailor-made for the obsessional-compulsive. You sit there and fill numbers into little squares on paper. Some people do like this kind of activity, but others don’t-and some not only don’t like it. they can’t stand it. Our only technology for teaching math was until recently, this pencil and paper activity – which made the entry ways for learning mathematics (and many other formal school subjects) extremely difficult for anyone who didn’t like this obsessional style. Even if they do get to enjoy math, the learning style still doesn’t match their personalities – and if it doesn’t match their personalities. they don’t do as well.
So traditional school math isn’t simply syntonic or alienated. It is more syntonic for obsessional-compulsive types. and more alienated for hysteric ones. Using dynamic, moving objects to present mathematics is ideal for people with hysteric styles – like the hyperactive child-but until we had computers, we didn’t have any way of making a mathematics of moving things. Throwing tennis balls doesn’t qualify in itself as mathematics because it isn’t formalized-even informally; for example, it isn’t tied to numbers and ways of manipulating them.
The computer allows us for the first time to match the subject matter and learning style to the personality type.”
Papert, S. 1984. “New Theories for New Learnings.” School Psychology Review, Oct.