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

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Tue Sep 29 07:57:27 CEST 2009

On Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 12:49 PM, kirby urner <kirby.urner at gmail.com> wrote:
> 2009/9/28 Brian Blais <bblais at bryant.edu>:
> << trim >>
>> Just a month ago, a friend of mine who homeschools her children was asking
>> me about graphing calculators.  Apparently the math curriculum she uses has
>> a number of graphic calculator exercises.  My advice was to buy a nice
>> solar-powered scientific calculator (for $15 at Target), but to ignore the
>> graphing calculator entirely.  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.
> Well, the curricula have been customized to fit what the calculator
> can do, with encouragement towards the more upscale models that do
> some graphing and CAS (fractor equations, solve integrals...).  A lot
> of what passes for "math" in this day and age is just a glorified
> calculator, your tax dollars at work to promulgate a niche market of
> private sector interests -- think defense contracting, same diff.

We need to promote Free Software for CAS/graphing and more. Maxima,
Euler, Mathomatic...If anybody wants, I can provide a detailed,
annotated list. Also NumPy and SciPy for doing it yourself.

> http://mybizmo.blogspot.com/2009/07/more-lobbying.html  (lobbying in Portland)
> Whether it's in the best interests of the students or not depends on
> the region.  My lobby encourages calculator crush videos as cathartic,
> similar to those union strikes against the Japanese automobile, back
> with Detroit called the shots, before USAers got used to working in
> state-side Toyota and Honda factories.  I'm not pushing that analogy
> too hard though, as we're big on working with Japan in this next
> iteration i.e. bashing scientific calculators has nothing whatsoever
> to do with shying away from Japanese art colonies (animation houses
> etc.).
> http://controlroom.blogspot.com/2009/07/contraband.html  (smashing
> calculators -- embedded Youtube)

I'm more into smashing voting machines. Open Voting Consortium has
GPLed its software, so it is available to run school elections, and
also to learn how to do real security.


>> 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.

To me, the question is what a calculator or computer program
contributes at the next level. After you learn a chunk of algebra or
calculus, including hand solving, I want students to have the
calculator or computer. for applications of algebra and calculus in
science and engineering. I want students to learn probability and
statistics and then be able to crunch 150 years of baseball statistics
or all of the polls for the next election. See the book Money Ball for
a real-world application of baseball statistics, where much of the
point is that the public tends to focus on showy stats, not on those
that win games. Learning to tell the difference would go a long way
toward improving public dialog about everything. See
fivethirtyeight.com for "Politics Done Right".

> Here in Portland, the homeschooling mom got together a bunch of these
> families and hired me to teach Python at Free Geek.  We had a
> rollicking good time and my students (quite an age span) learned a lot
> about mathematics, as well as programming.  This was several years
> ago.
> http://4dsolutions.net/ocn/pygeom.html  (write-up of Rita's class)


> LEP High, our progressive charter, also had me in to teach math with
> Python, the math teacher sitting right there at his desk, taking it
> all in.  The experiment proved the concept that students teach each
> other, left to their own devices, so a lot of our work is now focused
> on peer teaching, cutting out the middle-man in large degree.
> http://controlroom.blogspot.com/2009/03/pps-to-kill-lep-high.html  (re LEP High)


> Kirby
> For further reading:
> http://mathforum.org/kb/thread.jspa?threadID=1989542&tstart=0
>> bb
>> --
>> Brian Blais
>> bblais at bryant.edu
>> http://web.bryant.edu/~bblais
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Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin
Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.

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