About Thinks

Sometimes good thinks happen and sometimes bad thinks happen. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

Some thinks need immediate action and some thinks may remain as thinks forever. Thinks can be angry and heated. Thinks can be joyful. Thinks should never be cold.

These thinks are linked to many other wonderful thinks and I like to attribute these.

These thinks do not necessary reflect those thinks of my employer.

Think long, think on.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wolfram: Making Maths Real

Today Conrad Wolfram's TED talk was shared with me (thanks @traintheteacher).

If you are feeling frustrated by existing maths programmes I recommend you watch it.

I was impressed with the way he broke down maths into 4 parts:
  1. Posing the right questions
  2. Real world ------> Math Formulation
  3. Computation
  4. Maths Formulation -----> Real World, verification
He then suggests (I was leaping for joy at this point) that we stop wasting 80% of our students time on Step 3 and instead use computers for this.  This means that our students can spend more time on the more important steps (1, 3 and 4)

What I find particularly brilliant is his ability to counter-argue the arguments you have most likely been presented, and even stumped, with. For example, I have been confronted many times with the suggestion that kids need to learn 'the basics' first, and that is why they must do 'paper-work' before they can 'move on' to computer work.  Wolfram argues:
People confuse ... the order of the invention of the tools with the order in which they should use them for teaching. So just because paper was invented before computers, it doesn't necessarily mean you get more to the basics of the subject by using paper instead of a computer to teach mathematics.

Then the thing that really made me smile was that HE DID NOT GLOSS OVER ASSESSMENT!  He argues:

it's very important to get computers in exams. And then we can ask questions, real questions, questions like, what's the best life insurance policy to get? -- real questions that people have in their everyday lives. And you see, this isn't some dumbed-down model here. This is an actual model where we can be asked to optimize what happens  

It made me think about how many times I have seen people on social networks asking for advice on the best data plan for their mobile, or the best broadband plan for their homes and schools. I would much rather that kids had assessments with these kinds of questions. That way learners compare real information and make judgements based on their particular needs and situations instead of mindlessly computing things that are irrelevant.  

He leaves us with a challenge:
So I want to see a completely renewed, changed math curriculum built from the ground up, based on computers being there, computers that are now ubiquitous almost. Calculating machines are everywhere and will be completely everywhere in a small number of years. Now I'm not even sure if we should brand the subject as math, but what I am sure is it's the mainstream subject of the future. Let's go for it, and while we're about it, let's have a bit of fun...
As they say in theatre-sports land - "Yes, Let's!"

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tara,
    Thanks for the shout out. I think the key with maths is treat is a language, a way of explaining what we see and experience which is what I think is essentially what Wolfram's argument is.

    I found his comment about teaching calculus to young children fascinating. But it makes sense in terms of the way he plays with the triangle and turns it into a circle using programming.

    You might also want to read this fascinating blog post from an actual maths teacher who basically says the same thing.