Q&A: Can You Run a Successful High School Class Using the Moore Method?

by Justin Skycak on

Cross-posted from here.


Can you run a successful high school class using the Moore Method?


Regardless of the resources you have, a successful implementation of the Moore Method will require extremely motivated students who really enjoy intense, effortful thinking about math and are bright enough to construct a subject from the ground up with minimal guidance. Needless to say, this is typically a tiny proportion of students, which becomes vanishingly small as you climb down the ladder from graduate –> undergraduate –> high school –> middle school –> elementary school math courses.

Personally, I spent several years teaching at a highly advanced, opt-in math program where students entered in 6th grade (generally starting at prealgebra), took AP Calculus BC in 8th grade (with many students earning 5’s), and studied undergraduate math during high school. I worked with something like 100 students across that program but can count on a single hand those students who I think would have been able to succeed with something like the Moore Method. Even in the highest courses within that program, which filtered down to the most motivated and capable students, I would estimate that the proportion capable of succeeding with the Moore Method was something like 10% – and this an incredibly optimistically biased subsample, within an already incredibly optimistically biased sample.

So while I suppose I can’t claim that it’s impossible in theory for a Moore Method course to be successful at the high school level, I think the likelihood of having a group of students for which the Moore Method could work (leaving students not only with a decent grade in the class, but also the ability to solve actual problems that are standard for the subject, and not just the simplest cases) is so vanishingly small as to be effectively impossible in practice.