On Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 3:35 AM, Robert Hansen <email@example.com>
Yes, I appear to stray off topic
I would have characterized it as running at the speed of light off topic.:)
But you see for me it's quite ON topic as my proposed techie-vocational curriculum, proposed for non-calculus heads as well as for those wishing traditional analog math (continuity etc.), includes SQL. Venn Diagrams, boolean algebra, SQL... a natural progression. We'll store polyhedron data in relational tables once we get there, perhaps using Sqlite. All free software if we like, not talking billions for Oracle.
So? Well, I'm also into sharing Lore (stories, human interest features) not just techie skills.
What I've said about 1900s K-12 math quite a lot is its ahistoric, doesn't believe in sharing timelines, is short on bios, applications (Ralph Abraham of UCSC has shared this same criticism -- was in a worshop with him at our Oregon Math Summit some years ago).
Parabolas but no ballistics or dish receivers. Fractions but no Egyptian style fractions. And no talk about how mastery of the principles enables more life supportive advantages with less need for physical materials.
Better mathematics and physics has meant more "ephemeralization" (Toynbee: "etherialization") meaning more and more functionality from fewer material resources. Recent example: the smartphone, a GPS device, camera, computer, and telecommunications device.
You need the perspective of history to see "more with less" as a long term trend.
SQL + a commitment to teaching Lore = delving in to the Nazi Germany chapter right in the middle of STEM, looking at the machinery of the holocaust, the importance of early tabulation machines.
What check box schemas did they use, what was the database like?
We look at US census data at the same time, at the questions. We're not afraid to ask about "race" (what is it?): what is the history of that concept and to what degree does it anticipate the findings of genetic science?
We now know there's no "racial substance" any more than "blue blood" flowing in the veins of wealthy landowners. When two individuals have children, it's not like there's something "racial" is contributed 50-50, as if there were some "race gene". In the old days, they thought some "essence" was getting divided up, like "1/32nd black" was imagined to mean something in physical/genetic terms. But it's just pseudo-scientific nonsense (the Nazis were as deluded as the other white supremacists). Our science museum (OMSI) has an exhibit about that going on.
So in my curriculum, the topic of SQL is a chance to get dark and to really expose students to "man's inhumanity to man". I'm not saying we'll watch all 15 hours of Shoah, but it might be listed as background viewing for extra credit.
The topic of Unicode is when we get happy again (they're connected in that today's SQL engines support the Unicode codecs). Here 'Small World After All' and "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" are more apropos. This is when we celebrate the multi-culturalism the Education Yakuza consider a positive. We're happy about our China Town, our Old Town in Portland. Our business with Asia is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks in part to that Intel plant in Ho Chi Minh city.
Remember, STEM mathematics has a lot of GPS / GIS in it, is taking us back to Geography / Geodesy big time. With Google Earth, Google Mars, Google Moon, we're really into exploring spherical surfaces with spherical trig, lat / long, whatever hexapent grids (or "global matrix" some call those).
Geography + Geometry is a unifying heuristic. It's a much more worldly math that you'd see in those 1900s textbooks that had been drained of all history, but for a few quaint sidebars maybe.
In the 21st century, it'll be timelines galore. We're not just interested in Descartes for the XYZ coordinate system, we're interested in Descartes as a world line in history. He traveled a lot, ending up in Sweden, a chief counselor to the Queen. My / our students are more likely to know that.
(first 57 minutes of a background lecture, International Room, Hyatt Regency, O'Hare Area, Chicago, 2009) - at around 9 mins is
where I start talking about the importance of Lore (storytelling)