Less Calculating and More Math

November 19, 2010 at 3:41 am | Posted in Technology | Leave a comment

In a recent Ted Talks, Conrad Wolfram addresses the question of why there is falling interest in math, despite the greatest need ever for increased learning in math. Mr. Wolfram believes we focus too much of our education on learning how to calculate, rather than on the concepts of math. The reason? Math is actually interesting, but the math we learn in schools is not. In order to make math more interesting again, we must utilize computers as a primary mechanism for teaching math.
How?

1. Pose the right questions
2. Then turn these questions from a real life question into a math problem
3. Then turn that problem into an answer in mathematical form
4. Lastly, turn that answer back into real life

The irony that Mr. Wolfram points out is that our educational system spends the vast majority of time on step 3, the step computers do best. Math is not limited to calculating and is a much broader subject. In fact, we hardly have the need to calculate at all. Education and societies across the globe need to understand this, because we have a “unique opportunity to make it [math] more practical, and more conceptual,” simultaneously. Computers enable the learning of math concepts, without having to do the calculations. For instance, Calculus is taught very late in life, but mostly because the calculations are so difficult to solve. However, the concepts of Calculus can be taught much earlier in life.

If we focus on and utilize computers throughout our education, then Mr. Wolfram believes we can better learn the procedures, processes and concepts of math. Thus, enabling math to be more practical and more conceptual.

To see more examples and analogies on how we can move from school math to real-world math, listen to the lecture. Another great Ted Talks.

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