However, down here in the trenches, I really don't expect that kind of distinction to be a part of math department discussions anytime soon. It will in fact come up for discussion in our department : ) , but it probably won't be taken seriously. As it stands, our curriculum presents AP Calc as the crown jewel of achievement. Everything points towards that goal. Along the way there are various acceptable exits for those who just need to graduate. 'Finite' Math / Prob Stat is one of those exits. It's basically 'Math for Dummies'. I really dislike that organization and would like to throw a monkey wrench into it.

The good news is that this year I was given permission to create a Computational Analysis class, and I'm very happy with it. There are some amazing kids in there. I got a bunch of 3d puzzles in my room such as http://www.creativewhack.com/ , and there are some kids who take these things and create structures that just make me go 'Hmmm ... '. Truly remarkable. And there's one kid who is completely self-taught regarding Turing-completeness, the lambda calculus, and just about any programming language you name. He is way, way out there. I just kind of give him space to do whatever he needs. The cool thing is - he's not cocky about it. His attitude is so great. He just loves this stuff and is eager to share whatever he has found.

So in the Computational Analysis class I am kind of bound to cover the Analysis curriculum, but I've been given permission to do it using computational approaches. One of the things I've noticed is that though our math courses are called 'Analysis', the texts all bear the title 'Precalculus'. I find that interesting, as there really is a difference between the terms. 'Precalc' tends to be an assortment of topics that one might need in calculus, but 'Analysis' historically arose after calculus in order to remove philosophical difficulties regarding continuity and infinity. So I've really focused on that as a theme - that here in the digital/information age the power of the discrete has proven itself, but the curriculum we study arose in an era that was concerned about continuity and the real numbers. I keep bringing up this continuous vs. discrete, or analog vs. digital, theme as something relevant to think about.

During the first semester I focused mainly on programming in Python and using it for sequences, series, combinatorics, Boolean stuff, different base systems, and so on. I of course used the Litvins' Digital Age for a lot of this. Second semester I plan to use Sage more as the primary tool and will get into trig and conics and other typical mathy things.

I could easily see doing a lot of the first semester stuff in a course designated as 'Digital Math' that would not simply be a Finite Math dumping ground. That would be a such a great way to go. But ... one thing at a time.

- Michel

On Sun, Feb 20, 2011 at 4:49 PM, kirby urner <kirby.urner@gmail.com> wrote:

Per the log entry below, I've been rubbing elbowswith Portlandia's "intelligencia" again (comicbook allusion), thanks to Chairman Steve (andElizabeth).Steve is walking towards my place as I write this,having just met with the latter, the event organizer.Methinks "digital math" is gaining on "discretemath" as what to decry as not being taught(the ongoing media campaign I've beenupdating y'all about).The latter has the disadvantage of sounding like"discreet", whereas "digital" has these nicereverberations with "analog" -- and that's preciselythe distinction "discrete" was trying to makein keeping it quantized, as in "not continuous".People already know "analog vs digital" frompopular media. HDTV is digital. Shows like'The X-Files' get recorded as files, on magnetizeddisks keeping ones and zeros, or in flash drives.Analog records still sound good though; worthkeeping a turntable and watching video clipsabout how they work.However, the reason this is probably not animportant argument is zip codes (e.g. 97214)are free to vary as to what they adopt (or don't)in terms of nomenclature.We might tell parents: "the Silicon Forest isamazed and agog at how plugged up theSTEM pipeline has become, like why won'tschools share more digital math?", whereas ina neighboring state we might say somethingabout how the lack of "computational thinking"is quite stunning (and stunting).Why Johnny Can't Code is still a classic, thoughI don't know why the author bothered to take anill-informed swipe at Python. Someone's partisanagenda I suppose **.There's no need to standardize on "the one rightway to talk" -- a sure way to get bogged down innonsensical little arguments.OK, back to mathfuture.Oh yes, and the log entry:Steve will be joining you at Pycon soon. I'mtoo booked up this year. I forget if Michelle willbe going, I think she said yes.Ah, Steve is here,Kirby UrnerMartian MathDigital MathPythonic Math"Gnu" Math**"The "scripting" languages that serve as entry-leveltools for today's aspiring programmers -- like Perland Python -- don't make this experience accessibleto students in the same way. BASIC was close enoughto the algorithm that you could actually follow thereasoning of the machine as it made choices andfollowed logical pathways. Repeating this pointfor emphasis: You could even do it all yourself,following along on paper, for a few iterations,verifying that the dot on the screen was movingby the sheer power of mathematics, alone. Wow!"... sounds to me like this author doesn't haveclear concepts, is getting this fed to him 2nd hand,not through personal experience. Since when isPython "entry level" (compared to what? -- everylanguage has its newbies) and since when did westop "following along on paper, for a few iterations"?OK, maybe not literal paper.

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