Date: Sep 5, 2013 10:18 PM
Author: kirby urner
Subject: Re: A further response to posting on Calculator Use

Interesting how the subject line is "on Calculator Use" yet the word
"calculators" appears only once in the header article.

Anyone following my blogs will know I've been in Wolfram Research country
i.e. U of I, Champaign-Urbana. I took some pictures but my mission was to
visit another company in the old Traction Station.

The idea of using "games" to learn mathematics, other disciplines, is
nothing new. Puzzles, brain teasers... Martin Gardner territory.

Now that computer animation has invaded the game playing space, in arcades,
on smartphones, on computer screens, a lot of skills building goes on with
these projects. Sometimes the goals are simply mnemonic i.e. to help with
recall of the relevant facts.

Any subject is amenable to some degree of rote learning and building
efficacious "memory palaces" is time-honored component of rhetoric since
before the Renaissance. Today it's called "spatial data management" or
some such. Cite: 'The Art of Memory' by Francis Yates.

However development of these games requires yet other problem solving
skills, just as using, designing and building a calculator each takes
different skill sets.

A critical question is where to bring real human feedback into the process,
versus "robot scoring" via machine administered tests (there's not much
distinction between a scored game and a test -- practice practice then play
it for "the record books".

Development is a collaborative process so human feedback is integral in
both making the tools, and using them. There's typically a "solo mode" and
a "multi-user" mode. Many games involve "role playing".

Solving puzzles together: we need games that are good at promoting such
behavior. Games like Uru? So many yet uninvented. A vast territory.

Anyway, I have a head full of ideas, obviously. Business trips can be
inspiring that way.

I represent the Python tribe in this context whereas others advocate for
and/or apply other tools, oft times in a complementary fashion.

During my Chicago workshop, two of the geeks heard me pushing Visual Python
as a favorite teaching tool and they assessed (a) the web site was too
outmoded-looking to easily attract new users and (b) the installation
mechanisms were too broken. They assiduously set about building a Linux
installer and completed the project before the workshop was over. Wow.
Now we just need to get the improvements accepted.

Then, after Chicago (Hyatt downtown, conference just finishing up), I drove
south to Wolfram country. Great place. I'd never been to Champaign-Urbana
before. Today I'm in Indiana.

Synergetics was a part of the Djangocon presentation, though not a big
part. It's wasn't hard to weave in, given Chicago is all about
architecture. I'd taken an "architecture boat" the night before and had my
slides ready, something to look at as I got things set up. Mentioning
Bucky Fuller when mentioning architects is a smooth segue, with Alexander
Graham Bell another foreground figure.

However it's really just generic spatial geometry I'm talking about, in
showing off Visual Python (, VRML ( and POV-Ray (

Reinforce the core math in the language of your choice, coding a model.

In model-view-controller architecture, we allow for various views based on
a common model.

The same math outputs on various visualization formats. I don't do as much
with sound as other teachers. Not my forte.

Scott, my former boss (he's posted here, tried to join the threads about
calculus -- his forte), strongly advocates for Mathematica in particular.
That's his heritage as a Uhl guy.

I'm quite respectful of Mathematica and look forward to more results coming
in from the various classrooms using it, but given my Python affiliations,
I'm more likely to talk about SAGE or iPython Notebooks.

Given we all share a commitment to Diversity, it's not that big a deal when
two camps, or schools of thought, develop different branches of the
technology. There's no assumption of a "winner take all" theme.