[Edu-sig] thought re graphing calculators ...

Jeff Rush jeff at taupro.com
Mon Sep 28 21:18:43 CEST 2009

Brian Blais wrote:
> On Sep 27, 2009, at 19:38 , Charles Cossé wrote:
> Her kids should do the
> exercises by hand, on graph paper instead.  Anything that is hard enough
> for you to use a graphic calculator can be done much more easily with a
> computer.  


> After giving her this advice (which I still stand by), I was thinking
> about my own experience.  I was going through high school when the first
> graphic calculators came out, and I had one Junior and Senior year and
> through college.  I loved to program it, and I loved the big screen
> where I could see and edit expressions.  However, as I think about it, I
> can not think of a single problem where I *needed* the graphic
> calculator, or where it gave me more insight than I could do by hand.
>  It was a fun toy, but not the best tool.

I was in school (1972) before graphing calculators were even an idea
(think teletype printing terminals).  In high school I hated doing the
manual calculations and hand-plotting the data, so I got involved on my
own in BASIC programming.  It lacked the symbolic math aspects but at
least got me past 'turning the crank', which teachers thought was
important.  But I felt it greatly distracted from the "use" of the math
and understanding the big concepts.  It was like requiring all programs
to be written in ASM just so you're aware of the underlying architecture
-- useful a few times but then adopt higher-level languages.

My hobby in high school was (simple forms of) relativity and orbital
mechanics due to a strong SF interest, so the first program I ever wrote
was a time dilation graphing (using punctuation characters) program for
trips to nearby stars.  I still have it somewhere on teletype paper and
punch tape.  Along the way I lost interest in physics and found the
computer far more interesting because it could actually do stuff that
changed people's lives without a grant and committee approval. :-)


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