Here and on mathfuture (a Google group), I've been laying track for a variously named Digital Math track, starting with Heuristics for Teachers on WikiEducator.
Those with a long memory may recall my fascination with Software Association of Oregon leader Chris Brooks' agenda to phase Digital Math (DM) into the curriculum proper, with credits, in competition with regularly scheduled programming, i.e. "analog math" (AM), i.e. pre-calc / calc for the most part.
Digital Math was a reconstituted Discrete Math in a lot of ways, and tossed out not on a par with AM originally, but for the non-college bound, and/or as a more vocational subject for the 2nd tier students.
On the other hand, at our planning meeting on August 7 of 2009, we envisioned a variety of student, including future Geeks of America, many exchange students, partaking of our fare, which includes SQL, tcp / ip, a general exploration of Internet / telecomm concepts, from point-to-point, to broadcast, to today's many blends.
Cyberspace R Us, might be the poster.
A realization came to me along the way (around September of last year) that a common mistake among educators, stretching back to forced incarceration of Native American children in Anglo re-education camps (boarding schools), is to divide the students from the parents, by not including the latter in any of the curriculum based scripts. One of our local leaders, Polo, gave a lecture on that at the Pauling House (he's worked with the city). The Warm Springs Museum (near Kaneetah) is likewise eloquent on this topic.
Parents are expected to drive on field trips and help with bake sales, but their participation, even on-line, is quite strictly limited.
My focus shifted to find a way to improve outreach not just to adult teachers, but adults in general, and parents especially, with regard to what the Digital Math track had to offer. This is about where I started training with local community activists in a self organizing sport called "feed hungry people with food otherwise going into the waste stream, to compost, or to feed other animals." This activist activity injects the participant into a first person relationship to a city's food systems and inspires, if properly nurtured, a satellite view (a Spaceship Earth view) of global networks and the challenges facing them.
Just backing up for a minute, some years ago I coined the term "First Person Physics" as a way of approaching the subject in a more first person manner, akin to the first person (versus third) in computer games. My writings on this topic caught the attention of one Dr. Bob Fuller, University of Nebraska / Lincoln, who realized it dovetailed with the new emphasis on health sciences in the American physics teaching community. My collaboration with AAPT had begun. This would feed into my experience of working with SAO down the road.
We have discussed here to what extent a community activity, such as rewiring the food circuits, getting more home economics back in the picture, might be consistent with the goals of DM (digital mathematics).
Maps of cities crop up in Tufte and are an endless fascination for those garnering statistics. Simulations such as SimCity have already reached maturity in the form of popular computer games. The kinds of feedback networks we want to model have already been studied extensively in an urban context, so when it comes to grist for the mill in computer modeling, we have already struck gold. The question is what more abstract topics have we touched. Topology? Linear programming? The traveling salesman problem?
A core text for our syllabus has been 'Mathematics for the Digital Age and Programming in Python', by Litvin and Litvin, and used at Phillips / Andover. Getting students to express their story problems in terms of objects, with behaviors and attributes, is a first step towards using an industrial strength computer language as an aid to tackling DM topics. Operator overloading comes to the foreground much more quickly. My Oregon Curriculum Network website goes into the nitty gritty, with my journals chronicling the field testing that's been going on, at Oregon Graduate Institute, Portland State, Reed College and elsewhere.
My most recent move has been to connect the adult home economics workshop (the bicycle-based enterprise) with the Linus Pauling House, a local headquarters and think tank I've written about often. Getting some heady chemistry into the mix, such that students become fluent not only in terms of calories / joules, but in terms of organic chemistry, protein synthesis and such, begins to feed STEM in earnest at this point. It's not all about velocity vectors and the force diagrams associated with a fully loaded bike trailer, packed with fresh organic produce from a supply house (see board game). It's about what happens to the food after you eat it, and the atomic theory of valencies, bonding, electron orbitals and all the rest of it.
Another focus, besides molecular studies (ala x2 Nobel Prize winning Linus Pauling), is the GPS device on the handle bars of the trailer-pulling bicycle. Sensors enter the equations from many angles at this point, but having like a Google Earth view of one's bioregion, and one's place within it, is a number one goal of Geography + Geometry (another slice within STEM). The GPS device takes us to satellite constellations and the geo- graphy of nearby space. We might spend quite a bit of time on the Apollo Project at this point, not just out of nostalgia, but in order to perpetuate some of those management practices. Our funders expect that of us.
In sum, DM morphed from becoming an offering in Oregon public schools into a non-accredited program for mostly young adults, with some older supervision. The teacher / manager I brought to the meeting with Chris Brooks and the computer science teachers, morphed into a bike trailer hauler, while my learning center (shared) on Stark Street became a kitchen. The writings, with Python syntax and type definitions, molecular biology, near earth astronomy, was packaged for use by our network affiliates. Much of it is open source and interleaved in public archives. Much of it feeds directly into the "girl scout math" projects I've been looking at in a more overseas context, with some importable elements. The Stark Street facility recently sent a delegation to Nicaragua and that's given us more ideas. I've already posted about dovetailing the bike program with some programs in Havana. We already have Python in common.
Jon Bunce, with Linus Pauling House, an accomplished musician as well as math savvy layman, is an alum of Phillips / Andover, which featured earlier in this story. I'm seeing midwest and east coast possibilities for some of these same programs. The weather patterns are quite different, as are the distances involved. Food waste is a problem in many places though, so here's a way for the story problems to gain traction, and solving these problems requires getting off your duff, i.e. you don't get an "A" if actual food isn't actually cooked and fed to fellow students.