[Edu-sig] Computational Math Wiki/Book

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sun Feb 7 22:11:28 CET 2010

On Sun, Feb 7, 2010 at 11:25 AM, Phil Wagner <philhwagner at gmail.com> wrote:


> If you are interested in working on such a project, send me an email at
> philhwagner at gmail.com. After the initial setup is complete we can open it up
> to the larger Python community and even perhaps broaden the scope to include
> Geogebra and others. The information and materials are out there but spread
> out.
> Phil

Hi Phil

I'll say up front that this is the kind of project we're hoping to see
a lot more of, i.e. groups of teachers spontaneously creating open
source curriculum materials.

I just wanted to suggest / mention Wikieducator as a possible outlet /
platform for this work.  The context is already established:  teachers
freely share material in a copyleft manner, welcoming collaboration.

Teachers certify they have the necessary permissions to copyleft what
they're sharing, which means browsers don't have to keep checking the
licenses on every picture or paragraph.

Lowering the red tape factor is a prerequisite for liberal arts
culture (copyleft doesn't mean unattributed or uncredited as we all
know -- citing sources is part of the drill).

Python has a tiny footprint here Wikieducator, a page started by a
faculty member in India and added to by moi.  It's easy to get on, and
when you're ready to get certified as a "wikibuddy" or one of those
(they have a ranking system), that's not so hard either.[0]

I wouldn't suggest expanding this page necessarily, but it'd be easy
to do lots of internal links.

FYI, I've already dumped a ton of Python-related math stuff on the web
for free and have encouraged wide-spread copying.  The stuff is
somewhat esoteric, I like to think ahead of its time.  Help yourself
to what's there.[1]

On the basis of these many math pages, the first using Python, I got
to be a star of the show, was privileged to promulgate this material
directly to assembled geeks at many a Pythonic event.

Pycon and Europython going geeks aren't usually high school teachers
though (Jeff Elkner an exception), and most attendees were too young
to have high school aged kids of their own (or at least that used to
be true -- Python itself is a fairly recent invention, it pays to

Are we entering a new chapter?

Different parts of the world are responding differently.  I'm hardly a
know-it-all.  We all have our anecdotal evidence for this and that.
I'm up to comparing notes -- edu-sig has been good for that (lots of
notes in the archives).

This recent Educon in Philadelphia, with its ambitious use of
networking tools, is at least keeping the flame alive.[2].

At the end of the day I see this as a student-driven trend.  Having
students work together on the content, with teacher supervision, is
maybe where we should be going with this (thinking of Vern's question
about not getting virtual posters to Pycon -- perhaps collaborating on
curriculum materials is a more productive way to channel the same

Having a whole class collaborate on an open source project on
Wikieducator (or wherever), aimed at sharing about some topic, using
Python turtle or whatever, would be an excellent way for a teacher to
role model a shared workflow.

Students would have something to look back on, as each build a portfolio.

I hope we discuss this strategy here on edu-sig, think about how to
consolidate efforts.  We already have PyWhip and Crunchy Frog going,
other experimental initiatives...  Turtle Art...  OLPC.

Lots of great Python tutorials of a generic "learn the language"
nature are already out there, starting with what's in the Python docs,
some of them already translated into multiple languages.  In starting
some new project, we don't want to reinvent what's already out there.
What would an outline look like?


[0]  http://wikieducator.org/PYTHON_TUTORIALS

[1]  http://www.4dsolutions.net/ocn/numeracy0.html is a good starting
point -- an old page though, so I guarantee broken links at the
bottom.   This is one of four pages, touching on a variety of math
topics (some of the same ones as in MFDA e.g. Fibonacci numbers).

I give a lot of simple functions here, don't do any "objects first" or
whatever (that thinking came later, after limited field testing, some

I'm big into "right brain" visuals (lots of geometry), trying to
balance the very "left brain" lexical activity that is computer
programming (it's not going to be all "point and click" -- we should
be honest about that, even though Scratch is a great way to get into

[2] http://educon22.org/conversations/Papert_Matters_Thinking_About_Children_Computers_and_Powerful_Ideas

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