Thursday, February 24, 2011

Computing Is the New Maths

Following on from What do we teach and why do we teach it?, I wanted to share a link to a post from a home school blog - Just SCRATCHing the Surface of Fractions where ther is an example of using programming to explore Maths:

Brute Force Solving in Scratch (screen cast) from Rhett Allain on Vimeo.

I have used a similar technique myself when my daughters were stuck with a problem in the Scottish Mathematical Council's Mathematical Challenge. Clearly it would have been unethical to solve the problem for them but often I'd suggest that they fire up a spreadsheet, plug in some sample values, then enter the connections between the numbers (from the problem specification) as spreadsheet formulae. Once they have built a model in the spreadsheet they could change the values and watch the effect. This gave them a feel for what was going on and often in working out the formulae in the spreadsheet, they had solved the problem. It was usually fairly straightforward to turn the spreadsheet formulae into an algebraic form for the official answer.

Learning Maths by learning programming... In this case programming a spreadsheet.

Perhaps I'm still infected by the disruptive ethos of the Learning Without Frontiers conference but I really like the idea that Computing should be a compulsory subject at school and Maths should be optional.

I suspect that many people can get through the day without directly coming into contact with Maths. (Arithmetic possibly, although even that can be avoided thanks to electronic tills and a host of other technological gizmos.) Direct, personal contact with Maths is unlikely but direct contact with Computing is almost unavoidable

So out with Maths as a compulsory subject and in with Computing instead. ...Or am I getting carried away here?


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