Which Came First: The Paper or the Computer?

For the young children we educate now, they arrived into this world where both existed at the same time. This “TED talk” below features Conrad Wolfram trying to change the paradigm of how math is taught. If you’re familiar with him, he’s the man behind the website Wolframalpha. It’s quite a fascinating website. If you’re a math nerd, or even a teacher wanting to make math relevant to kids, it’s a great website. Just type in any equation like “2+2” without the quotation marks, or “2,5 torus knot” and see what you come up with. Then get crazy and try entering your birthday or an historical event.

For those of you who remember the quadratic equation, ask yourself when was the last time you used it. More importantly, if you do remember it, ask yourself, how, why, and when you would use it? I think I’m safe with 2nd grade math, even though it’s important to stretch kids in every possible way. For middle school teachers and beyond though, he poses a very good argument. One thing I certainly agree on is that we all need to support kids with estimation, reasonableness, and mental math strategies. It’s well worth the 18 minute video, especially if you’re interested in math ed. reform in this country. Alternately, with TED talks, you can click on a link to get the transcript, if that’s your prefered method of learning.

Here’s the blurb from TED about the following video titled, Teaching Kids Real Math with Computers.

From rockets to stock markets, many of humanity’s most thrilling creations are powered by math. So why do kids lose interest in it? Conrad Wolfram says the part of math we teach — calculation by hand — isn’t just tedious, it’s mostly irrelevant to real mathematics and the real world. He presents his radical idea: teaching kids math through computer programming.

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