Date: May 10, 2013 5:16 PM
Author: kirby urner
Subject: Re: When math makes sense - w/ cooking, consruction

>  Yeah, I had New Math before moving to Italy and doing Junior English,
> OSR, then Florida for first semester high school (the worst school in the
> train), then International School in Manila. Then Princeton. Then School
> of Life. :-)
> Nowadays, I think of Saturday Academy as giving Portland many shots in
> the arm, hoping to help it awaken from the long dull dream that his been
> Industrial Era education in our Gotham. So dreary, so bland.
> Googling Kirby Urner, yoor course of study at Princeton was Philosophy,
> followed by some graduate Ed classes. Are you certificated as a math
> teacher anywhere? What math courses did you take, and no, computer science,
> while related to math, isn't math.

So say you, re computer science. We really don't need to have those
religious arguments when STEM is just STEM (integrated, wholistic).

SQL is basic tabulation in rows and columns, how we do it these days, also
spreadsheets. To not address basic storage and retrieval of information in
our culture, the basis of the web, except in electives in better funded
high schools, to bleep over SQL as core knowledge (not saying to be a
master, just to play with and taste) is to be expected from lazy
good-for-nothing "everything should just be like when I was a kid"

You've got syntax, rules, intersections, unions, boolean filters, primary
keys... a lot of that New Math went into GNU, yet the poor dears are still
suffocating under teachers who learned their STEM in the 1960s and just
can't be bothered to move ahead several decades. Publishers either.

Hence the panic for "standards", to force feed recycled gruel, to NOT
really do the work to stay relevant.

Like Babylonians refusing to share basic time keeping or papyrus record
keeping with their own young.

The basics are different now and Dom Rosa era math is just too retro for
its own good. I'd say the same for physics teaching too. Much in need of
revamping. I've been active with AAPT on that, using Python.

I'm not alone in harping for change of course. Physics teaching needs to
be friendlier to health professionals (physics of MRI) -- a lot of people
were saying that, and that's now an evident trend. I'm fairly used to
seeing my predictions fulfilled.

I taught high school math full time at a St. Sensible for awhile, along
with world history and honors philosophy.

I also developed my math abilities as a NAUI certified scuba diver,
although of course in your book (the way you carve your turkey) nothing so
"vocational" could be considered mathematical. Not sailing (using maps),
not anything but what you were told was math by the big people in your
environment when growing up. Born-in-the-1900s people, most of 'em.

Here in Portland you'll see I sometimes do pilot STEM for Saturday Academy
e.g. at Reed College, Portland University, Oregon Graduate Institute over
the years. My School of Life credentials are ample. I'm in enough
bibliographies and foreward "thanks yous" to compete.

I've chronicled these pilot academic endeavors here (math-teach) while also
lobbying (sometimes with others, like Software Association of Oregon, since
renamed), Apache Foundation, Python Software Foundation and others.

> I've never pretended to be a math teacher, just a parent with a pitchfork
> and degrees in physics and electrical engineering who was appalled at the
> new new math being served in the elementary school that owned my son based
> on the street address.

I've crossed into Physics too, resulting in more cross-fertilization
between math-teach and PHYSLRNR, where Hansen and GS have been active, Hake
on both as well. I was recruited to that list by the late Dr. Bob Fuller,
emeritus University of Nebraska at Lincoln,... anyway, this is all in my
journals and elsewhere, easy to find out about me.

I'm a parent but I'm also a Quaker activist with some historical karma to
work with. My dad was a developmental planner and futurist. Getting more
of the big picture into everyday schooling / apprenticing is you might say
an inherited goal.

> Considering you're trying to make waves in math education with a BA in
> Philosophy (is that where your self-revealed elitism springs from?) and
> Python in your quiver, I can understand your motivation to denigrate
> advanced degrees in math and sciences. A true "polymath" displays a range
> of knowledge that is a mile wide and a mile deep, but I'm struggling to
> find any depth to your approach.

I haven't really done that much denigrating over the years, plus it goes
with the territory somewhat (decrying "overspecialization") -- versus those
with a real ax to grind on that score.

I'm not that insecure. I'll get polemical now and then, as we've seen, but
I'm surrounded by PhDs who've demonstrated some respect for my positions
and strategies, even if none can be held responsible for really knowing the
whole range of initiatives and activities.

> Kudos to you for your Python instructor status in O'Reilly's online trade
> school (their book line has always been decent) but you mighy want to
> revise your remarks regarding "most PhDs as over-specialized larvae";
> perhaps if you had more of the qualities of the polymaths you speak of your
> judgement would have more weight.
> -Greg

Nah, I'll stick to my guns on that one. Or put another way, I've been very
privileged and haven't had to pay so much for school.

Ed Applewhite tried to get me a Guggenheim that time. Flattering. But
this really isn't about me though it sounds that way. Our Pycon in Santa
Clara had an edu-summit, Walter Bender was there (a king of turtle math
these days).

Lots of changes are afoot.

Teachers all over are getting on board.

They may not call it "Gnu Math" the way I do, but I think you'll see a lot
of spanking new curricula popping up that imitate a lot of my values. This
book for example:
(I'm in the bibliography)

Besides, I'm a big Mandelbrot and Escher fan. A lot of what I push / teach
/ lobby for is already quite popular and well established.

From the video at that Pycon 2013 (lightning talks), you might conclude I'm
one of those wild haired absent minded professor types and I somewhat
cultivate that look. I make quite a few little jokes.