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.

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.


Improve Grades…. by Lecturing Less?

October 10, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Posted in Technology | Leave a comment

Contrary to popular belief, online learning today produces results significantly higher than conventional instruction. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Education reported their findings on a 12-year study they had been conducting since 1996. The report used research based on both online and traditional classroom learning from subjects in K-12, colleges, and adult educational programs. The analysis concluded that, on average, students doing some form of online learning would rank in the 59th percentile, whereas the common classroom student would rank in the 50th percentile. How does this happen? Since everyone learns in different ways and different paces, online learning can tailor to the individual, providing them with a more effective learning experience.

Years ago, the idea that online learning would be more effective seemed ridiculous. However, times have changed and so has online education. What used to be simply a platform for housing electronic text resources, is now a tool – the modern textbook, game and application rolled into one – used to engage people in unique and effective ways. The online tools are growing and increasingly providing students with a more individualized and tailored learning experience than what they have been traditionally receiving in classrooms. While it may sound like the announcement of a near end to classroom education, experts and educators alike are optimistic that education will be evolving to utilize both teaching styles together. Internet tools will most likely enable teachers to spend more attention on those that need it most: the struggling and the brightest students.

How? We believe that proper use of the Internet will allow teachers to facilitate and guide students, thus limiting the need to lecture to a broad set of students. With the Internet as a supplemental tool to classroom learning, educators hope students, young and old, will be able to draw a greater understanding of academic material than the inherent challenges posed by lecturing to wide audiences. This hope is not unrealistic, especially considering much of it was completed during the days of dial-up modems. Think of the dramatic improvements on the Internet within these past 12 years (notably cloud-computing and high-speed Internet), and imagine what sort of improvements can be developed over the next 12 years, and you can see why we too are optimistic about online learning.

The full Department of Education review of online learning.

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