Posted by: Dave Moursund
Tagged in: Problem Solving
For most of my professional career I have been advocating major changes in the school math curriculum to better reflect the changes being brought about by computers. In brief summary, much of our school math curriculum content focuses on helping students learn to do by hand the computations and symbol manipulations that computers can do much more rapidly and accurately.
This TED video provides a really neat summary of my thoughts:
Wolfram, C. (July, 2010). Teaching Kids Real Math with Computers. TED Talks. Retrieved 11/18/2010 from http://www.ted.com/talks/conrad_wolfram_teaching_kids_real_math_with_computers.html. Learn more about Conrad Wolfram at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conrad_Wolfram.
We now have computer hardware and software availability that can be used to inexpensively and widely implement the ideas that I have been advocating. We can change math education by using Information and Communication (ICT) capabilities to do what they do best in math, educating students so their brains do what human brains do best in math, and developing a math curriculum that is fun and interesting. The focus would be changed away from teaching students to develop speed and accuracy in the use of computational procedures that computers can do faster and with greater accuracy. Instead, the focus would be on understanding, problem posing, problem solving, developing one's math intuition, and learning to use ICT effectively.
However, such wide-scale implementation would represent a major departure from our current math educational system. Unfortunately, this current math educational system is designed in a manner that makes it highly resistant to such changes.
I look forward to being a continuing participant-observer in this change process. I’d sure appreciate Comments to this IAE Blog entry being added by those of you who are interested and involved (for or against) the changes being advocated in the TED video.
What You Can Do
You know that the message sent is not necessarily the message received. You, for example, have “constructed” a personal meaning to my message given above. My overall intent is to provide you with some information and ideas that you will act upon in a manner that leads to improving our informal and formal educational systems.
So, pause for a few seconds and think about the meaning you have constructed from my message and some possible action that you might take based on that meaning. What occurs to you that you, personally, will try out in your quest to improve our education system?
As a personal example, I can still remember when I first started promoting the use of calculators in elementary schools. I loaned a $50 handheld calculator to a school that my children were attending. Someone dropped it on the floor and it broke. (Now one can buy much better and more rugged versions of this calculator for under $5.)
I really enjoy the TED videos and think that you will too. See a listing of well over 1,000 TED videos at http://www.ted.com/talks.
Spend a bit of time reflecting on what you have just read. How does the information fit in with your current knowledge, beliefs, and activities? How can you make use of the information to help improve our informal and formal educational systems? Who do you know that might benefit from reading this IAE Blog entry?
The IAE Blog entries tend to have a relatively long "shelf life." However, over time, the references tend to get out of date. You can help your fellow readers and IAE by adding a Comment that includes an up-to-date reference and its URL. Your Comment should include a couple of sentences summarizing the up-to date-information and ideas.
Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications
I have written extensively about the use of computers in math education. My focus has been on using the computer as an aid to representing and solving complex problems.
Being "Proficient" with 50 Percent Correct Answers. Math competence and math maturity. IAE Newsletter - Issue 23, August 2009.
Moursund, D.G. (2007). Introduction to problem solving in the Information Age. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Access at http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/7-introduction-to-problem-solving-in-the-information-age.html.
Moursund, D.G. (2007). Computational thinking and math maturity: Improving math education in K-8 schools. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Access at http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/3-computational-thinking-and-math-maturity-improving-math-education-in-k-8-schools.html.
Moursund, D.G. (2005). Improving math education in elementary schools: A short book for teachers. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Access at http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/42-improving-math-education-in-elementary-schools-a-short-book-for-teachers.html.