Maths not = calculating

I came across (maths ≠ calculating) via @JeffUtecht’s post My 25%PD. Both these links are worth visiting but let me focus on the first. founded by Conrad Wolfram – yup, the Wolfram behind the site anyone who’s ever googled a maths problem/question would have visited at some stage. Conrad Wolfram’s TED talk \”Stop teaching calculating – start teaching math\” is an engaging insight into how maths education can be…and it’s a big challenge in many ways, e.g.

  1. Shift the focus on calculations/computations to real application of maths by using computers/technology to do the calculations.
  2. Change current scope-and-sequence driven by the difficulty in calculations rather than concepts. For instance, with interactive visuals  even primary/elementary students can access concepts such as calculus.
  3. The best way to teach procedural aspects of maths is to involve programming (I agree as the process of defining an algorithm deepens understanding).
  4. Make maths an elective; the rationale is that maths is embedded in other subjects and in a contextualised manner
  5. The big hurdle is exams – education is “test”ed so changing the curriculum is a challenge

This is what I have been trying to do – in a rather crude form – in the past few years. And #5 is a real dilemma. Also, any change must be systemic because I find that students, whether they like it or not, come to expect a “format” for maths lessons. While I enjoy veering away from the standard format, I know that the expectation is there to “teach calculation”.

But, where to now?

I’ve signed up to support to be in the loop and help spread the word.  I wonder if I’ll see any changes along these lines in my lifetime. I think the Australian national curriculum changes for maths embeds calculation more than ever.

Btw, I should add that the website links to plenty of interactive resources allowing teachers to follow these principles. It also seems that programming contributions are also welcome. These people are serious. Do check them out.

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