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Topic: Square root of six
Replies: 21   Last Post: Aug 31, 2012 12:47 PM

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kirby urner

Posts: 3,690
Registered: 11/29/05
Re: Square root of six
Posted: Aug 28, 2012 2:42 PM
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On Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 11:07 AM, Robert Hansen <> wrote:

> I am just being honest. Your view of software is ancient. That is why

No, software is still generating a lot of instructions that get run on
chips, which tend to use hexadecimal numbers.

Here's a great STEM exhibit:

The entire process is intensely mathematical, as is what goes on with
RNA and its transcribing of DNA into proteins.

Math is a lexical thing, not just a numeric thing. Regular
Expressions are a legitimate math topic (pattern matching with
strings). I teach that topic almost daily.

> colleges have so much trouble being pertinent in CS. They should follow
> MIT's lead with their Course 6 program. Comparing programming today with
> programming 50 years ago (when it was near-math) is like comparing medicine
> today with medicine 100 years ago. It isn't quaint or simple any more. Layer

You have it hard-wired that the only people starting down the path of
learning some programming are going to be working professionally as
"programmers" full time. But that was never true of K-12 mathematics
i.e. it was never the case that a full time job as a mathematician was
at the end of that tunnel.

So it's the same logic: when you start down a path of acquiring more
numeracy skills, alpha-numeracy skills, where are you going? You're
learning about SQL using sqlite. You're learning XY coordinates with
Javascript and HTML5 canvas, and XYZ coordinates as well, with POV-Ray
and VRML.

Why struggle for a couple years mastering XYZ and spherical
coordinates and never get a chance to use a ray tracer that expects
exactly such data for its rendering engine, and will give you colorful
polyhedra as your reward. A traditional math textbook has a few
pictures but promises and delivers nothing where interacting with
technology is concerned. So much wasted opportunity. We're not
talking about anything expensive. POV-Ray is free, as is the Cortona
VRML browser.

You're like the guy who says kids should never learn to ride a bicycle
because the world has little need for full time Harley Davidson riding
Hells Angels. It just doesn't work that way. In K-16 we're opening
doors. Learning about SQL, redis, JavaScript, LAMP, TCP/IP, GIS, mash
ups, noSQL, Google Earth, Scratch, SAGE, Python... POV-Ray, VRML is
going to open lots and lots of doors, to art, to engineering, to
surveying, to astronomy.

A couple years ago I taught Python programming to people who work with
the instrumentation and data pipelines coming off the Hubble Space
Telescope. I was a trainer for Space Science Telescope Institute. Why, do you think astronomer scientists use
Fourier Analysis and might want to use numpy for Hubble data? You
betcha. Do you think scientists all over the world use Python for
math-science computations? Is scipy one of their distros?

The ridiculous backward "schools" (some are in Florida, others in
Oregon) that don't use the free software are mostly kept that way for
lack of STEM savvy. They don't know how to get started except by
outsourcing, and that costs money and the private sector competes with
the public schools for consultants, jacks up their hourly rates.

So school districts get left further and further behind. Any "math
teacher" that can afford the time away, goes back to community college
and gets into IT, which pays better and uses similar skills: an
ability to concentrate, problem solve, apply numeric and symbolic
skills (noodling).

That's not true of every school district. Riverdale High is another
with STEM savvy I could talk about.,_Oregon)

> upon layer of complexity has been piled on. Networking, databases, backends,
> frontends, threading, load balancing, server, client, graphics and to top it
> off, multiple languages, formal (computer) and natural (human, global). And
> we are talking one application. I am not complaining, just saying that

Right. That's like a Hell's Angel saying kids should not learn how to
ride bicycles because there's no room at the top for many like him.

Mathematics as practiced professionally is way beyond K-12 math as
well, but I don't hear you raving about that, as if that analogy
didn't count for some reason.

Why so biased? Why so unfair?

> things change. CS grew up. Some CS people are mathy, like some musicians are
> mathy, but this isn't a mathy field anymore and hasn't been for quite some
> time. That died in the 80's. You want mathy CS, then stay in college, become
> a professor or researcher. Nature only allocated us a certain number of
> rewrites of the floating point libraries. We have used those up.
> Bob Hansen

Such bizarre education policies you recommend. The world over, STEM
workers are writing programs to evaluate their data, perhaps doing 3D
visualizations (check out PyMol), and here you're saying computers and
computing don't belong. Maybe they used to, but no longer.

I think you're going against history here. Python runs on your smart
phone today. GIS / GPS is everywhere. SQL is everywhere. To say
K-12 should make all this stuff "elective" whereas learning to factor
polynomials like Cardano is the bee's knees in terms of relevance...
ever cross your mind we can do it all?

There's actually time in the day to learn SQL and geometry at the same
time. How? Store 26 key vertexes in one table, organize them into
faces in a related table, and have one row per polyhedron in a master
table. Have it back end into POV-Ray and/or VRML. Pie in the sky?

It's what I've taught at Saturday Academy, to teenagers. They only
have a few days to sample. I don't run a whole school. But that
doesn't mean that I won't or shouldn't or that the better STEM schools
aren't already doing as I recommend.

My curriculum writing is just way better than most of what's out
there, why be modest? That's why you don't see many people standing up
to me effectively. They see I've done my homework and know that I
know what I'm talking about.

Lots of collaborators, others share my point of view. Our STEM stuff
is simply better, and it's percolating outward.

Sure, there's a Gap (we're light years ahead of most others), but we
can live with the responsibility to lead.


Message was edited by: kirby urner

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