Well, yes and no. Dr. Loh is a great coach, educator, and evangelist, and I admire and respect him. If he says he was “dumbfounded,” then there’s something there.
The thing is, though, that the press is making a big thing about the “new formula he’s discovered”. That’s just plain incorrect: the interesting part here isn’t the formula. That formula is just shoehorning a simple idea into the language of math, and in this instance the language is almost as cumbersome as with the original, better-known formula. So, not an improvement.
No, the key idea here is in putting together two facts:
that the roots of a quadratic are equidistant from the centerline of its graph
that that allows one to systematically work out the roots of a quadratic without either guessing or an explicit formula
Taught well, this new method will relieve students of the need to memorize any formula per se. Instead, students who understand this will follow the method intuitively, and will wonder why quadratics get so much careful attention in math texts: instead, they’ll just be obvious.
This outstanding TED Talk by Barnard’s president is mainly about choking under pressure. But how interesting that the example Professor Beilock spends most time on is girls’ learning math.
One of the excellent points she makes so well is that there’s a difference between knowing how to do something, and being able to do it when the pressure’s on. And as you have probably experienced yourself, the pressure is in some sense always on.
I’ve experienced this since my school days, and I’ve done my share of studying this issue and experimenting with various best practices. When it comes to preparation for math tests of any kind, I consider this issue to be of equal importance to actually learning math.
I know. It sounds like heresy. But I know it’s right. So we use a three-pronged approach to preparing for math tests and math competitions alike:
Learn the necessary math to fluency
Identify and resolve all your performance/execution issues (per the above)
Strengthen your ability to critically deconstruct and to creatively synthesize
We give equal weight to these keys to success, because we understand that it isn’t just about what you know. It’s also about what you can do, and how you feel when you do it.