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Topic: Are functions really functions?
Replies: 7   Last Post: May 15, 2017 7:24 PM

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kirby urner

Posts: 3,690
Registered: 11/29/05
Re: Are functions really functions?
Posted: May 15, 2017 4:37 PM
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On Mon, May 15, 2017 at 1:18 PM, Robert Hansen <> wrote:

> The issue isn?t about formalism at all. It is simply because programming
> functions and mathematical functions are entirely different things, even if
> they are analogous. A student can't appreciate an analogy between two
> different things if they only know one of them. If I taught you Spanish,
> that doesn?t mean you now know Latin, or even how Latin is like Spanish, or
> different from Spanish. When we use analogies to teach, it is required that
> the student already know the source of the analogy, and we leverage that to
> teach the target.

So in a few minutes I get in my car, and go teach curriculum I didn't
invent, in which the MIT Scratch function will be introduced to the good
children of a local school. I don't know exactly which grade, first or
second? I'm a sub.

So lets at least agree on the anthropological fact that many students will
be getting their first exposure to "function" not from their regular math
teacher, but from an auxiliary like me, because when it comes to Learning
to Code, we can't afford to wait until middle school.

I'd link directly to the Scratch program we're gonna remix, but I know
you'd only have put downs, so I'm not using math-teach to get detailed
anymore. I'm actually fading out, as other conversations are more vitally
connected to what's actually happening on the front lines. People here
seem mostly armchair, retired know-it-alls. Some have textbooks to their
name in the textbook graveyard.

> Also, when programming, you are often implementing mathematical models,
> and if you don't understand the math, you can?t understand the model, let
> alone implement it in code, other than just copying it off the board. Just
> like knowing Spanish, doesn?t make you able to write a Spanish to Latin
> dictionary. You would also need to know Latin.

You can gain a better understanding of the math from seeing the concepts
encoded, that's the point.

The really slow teachers, the one who don't get it, think "first you need
to learn the math, then you can apply all that math you learned to learning
programming." I take on that misconception in my Youtube on decorator
syntax in Python, shared to edu-sig. Go find it if interested, but I doubt
you're much interested.

> The students at Phillips enter the class, strong in math, at least through
> Algebra, and each topic is presented in its math form first, and then they
> move on to creating models in code of the math they have learned.

How did they get to be "strong in math" I wonder? Could it have anything
to do with that they get a hybrid of math + programming right from square

>From the sample of schools I've been in, since this post O'Reilly School of
Technology job, I know that's the case here in Portland. I'm guessing
Florida is some years behind, but that's nothing new. I live in the
Silicon Forest. Nothing like Bradenton-Sarasota, where I had a semester of
high school. Not even the same dialect of English.

> If any students are being robbed, it would be those with no math skills
> being told that this is fine because programming replaces the requirement
> to know math. Or, you will learn how to complete a square by copying code
> that does it.

You still thinking of coding and doing math as separable activities.

Hard to take math-teach seriously these days. I'll be back sometime in the
Fall maybe. I've got a lot on my plate these days and need to make faster

See you in September maybe. Bye all.


PS: I'll be linking back to these threads from all over, but mainly to
demonstrate how the USSA is *not* where it's really happening, except in
niches. Time to get back to the front lines. This armchair stuff is not
that interesting.

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