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Topic: re: Wrong Answer: The Case Against Algebra II
Replies: 1   Last Post: Aug 29, 2013 12:15 PM

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kirby urner

Posts: 3,690
Registered: 11/29/05
Re: re: Wrong Answer: The Case Against Algebra II
Posted: Aug 28, 2013 7:47 PM
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> I like that the title uses Algebra II instead of
> Algebra 2, as that gives the flavor of how musty-dusty
> is so much of the heritage here. I also like that he
> keeps bringing it back to Chicago, where I also lecture
> on curriculum sometimes, with another workshop coming
> up shortly.

I'll be giving a workshop in Chicago and then I need to
take the rental car to visit a company that works closely
with Wolfram's.

Like Wolfram, I think algebra needs to transcend its
musty-dusty past ala Dolciani (text book series) and let
us bring all the function and mapping stuff to the
console, to interact via keyboard, not just paper and
pencil, which is still a useful medium (I can't say the
same for wood pulp textbooks though).

At the console, you have free access to functions like
zip( ), which chooses the next one from each set that
you give it, making a bunch of new groupings:

>>> result = zip({"planet", "comet", "sun"},
{"paramecium", "duck", "aardvark"},
{"banana", "apple", "orange"})
>>> list(result)
[('planet', 'aardvark', 'orange'),
('sun', 'paramecium', 'apple'),
('comet', 'duck', 'banana')]

Yes, there are some nuances to talk about here. I fed
it sets, using curly braces, but the listed output has
only curvy parens (parentheses). Students are clued to
pay attention to these niceties, and guess what, if
they're ESL or even EFL, that's the kind of tight focus
they need anyway. Hyper-attention to grammar and
punctuation: it pays off.

So lets not deny them their hours at the console.

In musty-dusty math, behind the times, behind the curve,
there's this big step to "multi-variate" or "multi-
variable" calculus. For over a decade, we've drilled 'em
in f(x) ("eff of eks") ala Dolciani and Saxon, ala text-
books galore. If we were feeling frisky some day, we
might go f(x,y) and live on the wild side. But didn't
zip eat three arguments just now? And couldn't there
have been more? What if your function notation is not only
machine executable but much better developed at the same
time? Not only do we have all the functions a scientific
calculator has, we have oh so much more.

Sometimes I think schools must be staffed by the stingiest,
most ungenerous people on planet Earth, not to let students
play with these well-designed, relevant, smarter-than-
textbook toys.

But then I slap myself: it's not the teachers' fault.
No one has been teaching *them*. When was the last time
you, the overworked math teacher, got paid to sit at a
console and play with our zip( ) function. Never, right?
Even though our function, and everything it depends on,
is really cheap. Even though your students would enjoy
the change of pace, so many of them.

I'll be in Champaign-Urbana, site of University of Illinois,
one of the players when it comes to setting the tone and
speed of many a high school. I'll be making fun of
Algebra II, as usual, not because you have to be smart to
learn it but because you have to be dumb. You have to be
a sucker for all that musty-dusty stuff that pretends it's
state of that art at Musty Dusty High, then it's off to
Musty Dusty College. Lots of moola, lots of dough. But
do they ever get to the good stuff? A lot of times, no.

I'm inviting the humanities faculties to grab as much of
the unclaimed territory as they like, as I think the math
faculties had right of first refusal and they've refused
in spades. It'll be ours now, all this node and edges
stuff, hyperlinks, http, HTML... and Python. Computing
was always more lexical anyway. Numbers are back seat.
The math faculties didn't want to stay up on technology,
but what if the history faculties do? You say "fat
chance" but I see and hear wolves licking their chops,
lean and hungry.

Who knows? Maybe like the Lex Language Teaching Institute
in Japan, we'll start teaching Fourier Transforms. We
have the right technology, after all, not like those lazy
math bums with the "scientific calculators" (guffaw).

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