Teaching Kids Math With Computers

In grade 12 I achieved the top marks for Mathematics HG. This was the culmination of two years of preparation, and mostly completing old exam papers from the previous three years. After seeing this TED Talk by Conrad Wolfram posted on the Facebook page of Claire Marketos, I suggested she contact Roger Layton. He told me a few days ago he submitted his Ph.D. thesis on a similar. You may read his reply below after the video…

Roger Layton: I do not actually agree with what Conrad has to say in this video. He is (not so subtly) punting his Mathematica products and others such as Wolfram Alpha. However, it is difficult to criticise him and Wolfram Research in general since they are A-list in the mathematics world – but that does not make them correct. My kids learned LOGO at school and that did not make them better mathematicians. The usage of the calculator has definitely reduced learners ability to perform mental calculations, and with calculators doing more and more this is becoming worse over time. He has a point that technology allows us to doing things better, but human understanding is compromised if we use technology too much.

My own research explored the question of what computers should be used for in the mathematics classroom and my focus is on diagnostic assessment – discovering of conceptual barriers to understanding rather than as a tool to aid conceptual development. This is different from Conrad Wolfram’s perspective here and his talk is not aligned with modern thinking of what mathematics is and what mathematical proficiency is, and this is multi-dimensional and not limited to calculations alone. I think he is out of touch.
Claire Marketos: I like Conrad”s idea of using computers to spend more time problem solving. For bright maths students the primary years are tedious as they are expected to do basic computing over and over again. For them being able to use computers to solve problems would be more satisfying. What is your hands on experience with learners Roger?


STAR SCHOOLS – Mobilising Education in South Africa

Johannesburg, 27 October 2010 – We could be entering an age where South African learners will not require a laptop or access to a computer laboratory – yet they will still enjoy inexpensive and rapid access to the internet and educational content. At a stroke the dynamic combination of mobile technology and inspired thinking provided an important solution for a severely under-resourced education sector. Star Schools CEO, Atul Patel has been the driving force behind the innovation.

By partnering a WAP-enabled mobile phone with a content-rich paper workbook, Star Schools have created a virtual classroom that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere. Using a 3-D barcode tag printed on a page and a mobile phone, with free-to-download tag reading software, learners can access additional content that ranges from a 3-D exploded-view video of an electric motor to teachers that comes on screen and provide lesson content just as they would in a classroom.

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South African born Dr Neil Turok wants the next Einstein to be from Africa

This is the message that makes TED such a powerful platform. As a TEDGlobal 2007 Fellow I am still speechless when I think of the amazing opportunity of becoming a part of this community. In a strange way its a very exclusive club but it’s also making a very public impact since they started publishing these videos on their website.

Dr Neil Turok was born in South Africa. His parents was involved in the anti-Apartheid struggle and eventually moved to Kenya and later to England. He now counts Professor Stephen Hawking as his peer at Cambridge University but it’s his work in Africa, with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) that has won his the very prestigious TED 2008 Prize. The TED Prize is a US$100 000 cash prize, and a TED wish during the acceptance speech.

Remember the next TED Africa conference is happening in Cape Town in September – 1 October 2008. Anyway here’s the video of Dr Neil Turok’s very inspiring acceptance speech at TED 2008: