Task 5

Posted by James on Jan 7, 2016

The talk by Conrad Wolfram had many good points that I strongly agreed with but there was one glaring statement that put me on edge. That was that “IT is the silver bullet for maths” that sort of sweeping statement is ill advised and could possibly come with far reaching consequences, think raw eggs carry salmonella or vaccines cause autism. Don’t get me wrong, I think well planned, well thought out and structured IT has great importance within maths but it is not the be all and end all.

I like Wolframs idea of using computers to computate maths and I definitely believe that it will have its place in the maths classrooms of the future. However I truly believe that pupils need to have the ability to computate maths before they use the computers to do it for them. I think Wolframs point that by having maths computation done by the computer it allows students to relate more to maths on a real world level and gain greater enjoyment out of it which in my experience is often currently missing from classrooms. It would also allow students to pose a wider variety of questions which not only would enhance their understanding but would also allow them to engage more with the maths itself.

I find that todays students have a much weaker ability in relation to mental arithmetic than students had 15 years ago. The skills gap is even greater when compared to previous generations. Why this is I don’t know, I could speculate on many reasons as to why.

A fluency in IT doesn’t always mean that students understand how to use it efficiently in relation to maths. An example of this is when working in a maths department of a school I often found that pupils when faced with simple maths equations would instinctually reach for a calculator. If they were asked to complete a maths problem on calculator they would often reach for their phone. However if they were asked to use a scientific calculator, which is a tool that is there to support their subject learning they would rarely know how to use it and of the few that could they would not know how to use it efficiently.

WolframAlpha is a useful tool that I use quite often when I cannot answer a question, as it not only gives me the answer but the break down so I can see where I am going wrong in my calculations. However I doubt students do this when they struggle with their homework.

The difference to Kahn academy is quite large, as Kahn teaches you something then tests you on it and helps you that way rather than just giving you an answer like WolframAplha which eliminates the teaching.

The article by Daniel Willingham talks about multi-tasking and I remember having arguments with my mum as a student, her point was always that I could not complete my homework in front of the TV as it would distract me. I did not understand her point at the time but as an adult I understand, as I now realise that I cannot study with background noise as it acts as a distraction. In my opinion my students today complete their homework/coursework with a plethora of distractions, whether this is their phone pinging with notifications or the Tv/Netflix on the background or even talking to their friends.

1 Comment

  1. marcus
    10 January 2016

    It appears that we have mainly the same opinion when it comes to this task, James. I also feel that IT has a great importance in maths, but we need to be mindful of its effectiveness in the classroom. I have found Wolfram Alpha useful in the past, but do you think that this tool is as useful for students as Khan Academy? Would you favour one, or a mixture of both?

    All in all, an interesting read 🙂

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