
January 14, 2013A Math Teacher on Common Core StandardsStephanie Sawyer, via a kind reader's email: I don't think the common core math standards are good for most kids, not just the Title I students. While they are certainly more focused than the previous NCTMinspired state standards, which were a horrifying hodgepodge of material, they still basically put the intellectual cart before the horse. They pay lip service to actually practicing standard algorithms. Seriously, students don't have to be fluent in addition and subtraction with the standard algorithms until 4th grade?Related links: Math Forum. Posted by Jim Zellmer at January 14, 2013 3:56 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup  Send us your ideas Comments
"Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica, the author of A New Kind of Science, the creator of WolframAlpha, and the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research. Over the course of his career, he has been responsible for many discoveries, inventions and innovations in science, technology and business. Born in London in 1959, Wolfram was educated at Eton, Oxford, and Caltech. He published his first scientific paper at the age of 15, and had received his PhD in theoretical physics from Caltech by the age of 20. Wolfram's early scientific work was mainly in highenergy physics, quantum field theory, and cosmology, and included several nowclassic results. Having started to use computers in 1973, Wolfram rapidly became a leader in the emerging field of scientific computing, and in 1979 he began the construction of SMPâ€”the first modern computer algebra systemâ€”which he released commercially in 1981."  From Stephen Wolfram's site. Wolfram gave an interesting TED presentation in which he gave very short shrift to practicing the algorithms, focusing instead on conceptual understanding and use of computers to help with that task. This brilliant mathematician and scientist is not alone in his position. Alan Kay seems also in support, and I have heard other mathematicians say the same things. My experience with my daughter's education at MMSD schools, and my brief experience with middle school kids at Toki relying on calculators instead of knowing simple addition and multiplication has left me scratching my increasingly balding head. I have no doubt, the use of computers and calculators in elementary school, middle school, and high schools are the primary cause of poor mathematics ability of students. Wolfram's TED presentation, which I just saw again today, seemed so offthemark. I can't image how any student can learn even simple arithmetic and see interesting and important patterns, if the computers are doing the work. If I recall from the last time I looked at NCTM, I've been disappointed in their positions. I never thought the T of STEM would mean replacing mental work of students with programmers' knowledge. Is it case that those who are blessed with the capabilities of those like Wolfram have no clue about what it takes "normal" students to acquire math knowledge? Is there another answer? Whatever that answer is, I can't image how such mathematicians can be so wrong. Along these lines, and perhaps somewhat at odds with Wolfram's position, Wolfram wrote these words on his blog regarding Richard Feynman, who he first knew when Feynman was 60 and Wolfram was 18. Here is a bit of what Wolfram says: "It's kind of interesting to look at. His style was always very much the same. He always just used regular calculus and things. Essentially nineteenthcentury mathematics. He never trusted much else. I always found it incredible. He would start with some problem, and fill up pages with calculations. And at the end of it, he would actually get the right answer! And often he'd come up with one of those classic Feynman straightforwardsounding explanations. And he'd never tell people about all the calculations behind it. He always had a fantastic formal intuition about the innards of his calculations. Knowing what kind of result some integral should have, whether some special case should matter, and so on. And he was always trying to sharpen his intuition." http://www.stephenwolfram.com/publications/recent/feynman/ Posted by: Larry Winkler at January 14, 2013 8:16 PMPost a comment
