[Edu-sig] How do we tell truths that might hurt

Kirby Urner urnerk at qwest.net
Fri Apr 23 12:09:00 EDT 2004

> [smile] I realize we're probably talking at cross-purposes. You say math,
> I think numerical calculations, algebraic equations, trigonometry, 
> calculus.

To some extent cross-purposes, yes.

At least in my case, I've been advocating programming-to-learn as an aspect
of the math curriculum, i.e. we should phase more programming into
mathematics courses.  That math is a core focus is simply a given, in this

My presentation at LinuxFest was somewhat along these lines.  
http://www.4dsolutions.net/presentations/linuxfest2004.ppt (or pdf)
[in Windows, ppt misses pg 7, while in pdf you don't get gifs animating]

A young couple approached me afterward and said their math classes *did*
include some programming (BASIC).  But that was in the 1980s (I was in
publishing then -- at McGraw-Hill, working on a book entitled 'Computer
Literacy' among others).  

My impression is that programming in math courses happens *less* nowadays,
in part because BASIC is no longer regarded as quasi-universal (it's sorta
passé), and curriculum writers haven't felt confident about what to put in
its place (e.g. Java starts to suck up a *lot* more time, in terms of
needing background discussion).

Given how entrenched the status quo math curriculum is, I'm now seeing
pre-college CS as a to-some-extent parallel sequence which would cover some
of the *same* math topics (e.g. Boolean logic, sets, maps, permutations,
coordinate geometry and trig) but from a different angle -- just throwing
Python into the mix would make a big difference.

But none of this is to say *only* looking at math topics is relevant.  I
think word frequency stuff is cool too, and whatever other humanities topics
we can think of, that are within reach from a certain level.

It's just that math is a fact of life, is going to be there, so why not make
it more interesting and interactive, too?


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