[Edu-sig] new to python

Michel Paul mpaul at bhusd.k12.ca.us
Sun Jun 11 00:53:26 CEST 2006


I just recently discovered Python, about 2 months ago, and I just fell in love with it.  I couldn't believe what I had found.  What immediately hit me was how perfect it would be for a math class.  I've always liked using mathematical structures for examples of classes, like Fraction or Point, but that would typically be in an intro to CS course using something like Java.  I've wanted to find something that would blend easily into an ordinary Algebra course.  I experimented using Scheme a little, and though I love Scheme as an intro to CS language, it's awkward working it consistently into a typical math curriculum.  But as soon as I saw Python I thought "Perfect!"  I expressed my interest in this to Atanas Radenski at Chapman University.  I'm going to attend his workshop later this month.  He directed me to Kirby Urner's writings, and my reaction to them was a resounding YES!  This is EXACTLY what I'd like to pursue!

I have learned just enough Python to have shown a little of it to my math department at a meeting recently.  I think they liked what they saw, in fact I know they did, but I sense that they're pretty much entrenched in their TI calculators.  I sense that they feel the TI is enough.  I don't think they quite appreciate the significance of creating something like a Fraction class.  I showed them a set of functions: 

  variance(aList): returns mean(squares(deviationScores(aList)))
  standardDev(aList): returns sqrt(variance(aList))

These could SO easily be implemented in a math class with Python!  And I think it would be so much better for Stat students to ARTICULATE these functions rather than to just use a standard deviation key.  I just love how the formula for variance turns into a concept rather than a bunch of variables.  Of course, you can do the same thing in other languages, but with Python you can so EASILY do it in an ordinary Stat class!

Anyway, I'm going to keep on talking to my dept. about these kinds of things.  I'd be interested in insights people have regarding Python vs. TI establishment.  I was always really bothered by the argument that factoring wasn't as important anymore, because students could find the zeros of a polynomial by graphing it!  Somehow that bugs me.  I'd argue that factoring is now MORE important.  Understanding the properties of natural number is vital for understanding what computation is.  

So, I'm glad to have found Python and this new educational culture.


Michel Paul

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