Category: Future of Math

Giving up Calculation by Hand

This is scary stuff for math professors, but with the arrival of amazing programs like Wolfram Alpha, we’re going to have to start paying attention to the signs of change.  I talked to Conrad Wolfram (at Wolfram Alpha Homework Day) when he was still formulating what he wanted to say at this TED Talk.  I think it’s worth 18 minutes of your time to watch Teaching kids real math with computers. Here’s an outline of the Conrad Wolfram’s argument (which I am paraphrasing/quoting here): What’s the point of teaching people math? Technical jobs (critical to the development of our...

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Are Math Instructors the next to be outsourced?

Have I mentioned lately that math instruction will be outsourced to technology? (oh yeah, pretty much every time I find myself speaking at a conference) See NCAT’s latest initiative “Changing the Equation” email, which I’ve copied below: Changing the Equation Selects 38 Institutions The National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) is pleased to announce that 38 two-year institutions* have been selected to participate in Changing the Equation, a new program focused on redesigning remedial/developmental math supported by a $2.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Institutions participating in the program will improve student learning outcomes while reducing...

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Wolfram Alpha Discovery

Okay, technically it was a workshop at ICTCM, but with 30 math faculty in one room, all armed with computers, I couldn’t help but make it a discovery and brainstorming session too.  I’m a firm believer in harnessing the power of a room of people instead of talking to them (provided that we have some technology to facilitate that). This post is Part I … the discovery portion of the workshop. One of the things that made this workshop a bit out-of-the-ordinary for math workshops was that I set up a “backchannel” for participants to use to share their thoughts, discoveries, and ideas.   To do this, I used a Chatzy Virtual Room – anyone can “join the room” as long as they know the URL – just state your name, and you’re in the chat room.  This made the discovery process collaborative, as well as fast and furious as everyone in the room got a chance to contribute to the conversation in real time. The first question I was asked (which I am asked in almost every workshop I do), is how on earth I was magnifying just a small portion of the screen (like where the input box was).  I use a free tool called the Virtual Magnifier. The group “play” with Wolfram Alpha lasted for about an hour, during which we (they, mostly) discovered quite a few...

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Math ELITEs (Classrooms for Active Mathematics)

Thanks to Diane, Gary, and Tom … who also contributed ideas to this classroom redesign project idea. Objective: Create classroom spaces specifically for a) actively learning mathematics and b) using technology to demonstrate, teach, and learn mathematics. A Mathematics ELITE is an Engaged Learning Interactive Technology Environment and consists of: 1. Multiple Whiteboards There should be enough whiteboards in the room so that 24-30 students can work in pairs at the boards. One set of boards should be lowered so that shorter students or a student in a wheelchair could participate more easily (another modification could be to use a portable whiteboard for disabled students). Students rarely learn mathematics from copying the instructor’s work. When students work on the whiteboards in class, it is relatively easy for the instructor to monitor the work of all student pairs at once, stepping in to answer questions, give hints, and correct notation. Students take turns being the writer and the helper, talking over the mathematics as they learn to solve new types of problems. With an interactive board in the room, one pair of students can record their work on the interactive board, creating a record (PDF file) of all the problems worked in class that day. 2. Document camera Can be used for displaying documents (i.e. worksheets, going over a test key, etc.). In a classroom with math manipulatives (i.e. fraction...

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