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

Brian Blais bblais at bryant.edu
Wed Sep 30 12:04:35 CEST 2009

```On Sep 28, 2009, at 16:30 , Gregor Lingl wrote:

>
>
> Brian Blais schrieb:
>>  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.

> I think I have a counterexample.
> Run the script, that you can find here:
>
> http://svn.python.org/view/*checkout*/python/branches/release26-
> maint/Demo/turtle/tdemo_chaos.py?revision=73559&content-type=text%
> 2Fplain
>
> What do you think?
>

good example, I do I remember programming this on my calculator in
high school (and feeling very proud of myself for it.  :)  ).  I
exaggerated a little bit in my claim, but I would only modify it to
the extent that once problems (like this one) get to a certain level
of complexity, the graphic calculator becomes more of a hinderance,
and that a quick computer program is far more useful and insightful.
This is what I had told my home school friends: there's little point
in learning a graphing calculator.  Understand as much as you can by
hand, and when that becomes intractable, learn to do some plotting on
the computer.

This just reminded me of a small program I wrote around the same
time, to show how the surface area of an animal doesn't scale as
quickly as the volume, and causes problems for very large animals.
When I had finished it (and saw numerically the ratio was linear) I
kicked myself for not just writing the equations down in the first
place.

When it comes to building intuition with programs, I have a recent
blog post:

http://bblais.blogspot.com/2009/09/probability-problems-and-
simulation.html

addressing one question (the Monty Hall problem) where I feel a
program is worth a thousand equations, at least for building intuition.

bb

--
Brian Blais
bblais at bryant.edu
http://web.bryant.edu/~bblais

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