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Conrad Wolfram Salman Khan at TED

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Conrad Wolfram Salman Khan at TED Powered By Docstoc
					         I was speechless about halfway through Conrad Wolfram’s presentation at TED. The line
that stuck in my head occurs early in the video, while he is discussing the reasoning behind
mathematical education. He describes calculating as “a means to an end, not an end unto
itself.” This, for me, has been the largest struggle in my education. In many classes, the
information is presented as though being able to perform this or that operation is important
simply for itself. This is, of course, false. What is important is the relationship represented by
that operation, and the thinking you go through to learn and apply that particular concept.
Wolfram seems to grasp that computers are useful in that they allow us to compute figures as
rapidly as we can. If we start applying computers towards problems that are at the very least
meaningful to students, they will start learning more about what is represented in a
mathematical problem.

         I also greatly agreed with Salman Khan’s presentation at TED. I have more reservations
about his solution for math education, such as the fact that it is a significant overhaul of the
system, and there would have to be time spent to execute it properly. In particular I take issue
with Khan’s idea of assigning lectures as homework, and doing the ‘homework’ in class. Firstly,
this is very dangerous in that I know many students who, while they will willingly spend 3 hours
watching YouTube videos, will not spend any more than a few moments watching something
they are not interested. Furthermore, if the students are only getting lectured at home, they do
not have a chance to stop the teacher and ask questions. This is extremely dangerous;
oftentimes a student needs more than one method of explanation, and if they are being
lectured, then can actually stop and ask for this. This not true if the students are being lectured
by a video.

        In the end, I do not believe teachers have a choice: computers are here, and they are
not going anywhere. They will be in the classroom in one way or another. The question facing
math educators is this: do we want to embrace computers and use them to our advantage? Or,
conversely, do we want to try to fight this trend? Ultimately, I believe we need to integrate
computers into our classrooms. When integrated correctly, it has been shown that computers
can enhance understanding of concepts, even in advanced mathematics1. Technology,
specifically computers, are a powerful tool and can shift the focus in classrooms from
calculation, the machinery which we want to avoid, to the understanding and applying of
mathematical concepts to the real world.




1
    “Effects of Computer Algebra Systems on Concept and Skill Acquisition in Calculus”

Jeanette R. Palmiter
Journal for Research in Mathematics Education
Vol. 22, No. 2 (Mar., 1991), pp. 151-156
http://www.jstor.org/stable/749591

				
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