On Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 11:30 AM, Jerry Becker <jbecker@siu.edu> wrote:
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This is a response from Steve Sugden in Australia to the posting on Calculator Use on Exams - Shift With Common Core, Wednesday on August 28, 2013. FYI  ...
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On the current topic, my view is that all calculators should be banned and use spreadsheets instead. There is plenty of research to indicate that Excel modelling supports abstract reasoning, and also the transition from number to algebra. I also believe that GCs are much overrated and that calculators in general, cripple the brain. Lots of button-pushing and often not much inkling of whether what emerges has any real value or correctness. They are black boxes.

Spreadsheet models show structure and build confidence in understanding of math relationships.

My 5-cents worth!

Now descending from soapbox.

Steve Sugden
QUT, Australia.


I'd be happy to see use of spreadsheets increased though I'd not insist on a brand.  However in my view students also need an interactive console, similar to a calculator's in that you have a dialog.  Spreadsheets are more pebbles in the pool with their ripple effects, and their "macros" get too spread around.

A computer language is a mechanized math notation, per Iverson.  Math is many languages, not just one.  We have stereotypes and conventions, but the J language, for example (Iverson's own) is deeply mathematical, as was APL.

There's so much more you can do with a language because it's lexical and also graphical, not just numeric.  People don't realize how much computer programming is about manipulating strings.  That's mathematical / algorithmic / deterministic just as much, with proofs and everything.  Very Godel Escher Bach.  We're in an age when sticking to "just numbers" is still happening waaaaaay too much.

Anglo culture says regular expressions (pattern matching) is "not math" whereas games with dice in a bag very much are.  The distinctions are highly arbitrary and represent historical cruft more than cogent thinking.  In bringing computer languages more into the foreground, we don't mind disrupting old ideas.

STEM should have no strong dividers within it.  We have the separate letters for separate "things" but once you're inside, you should learn to bounce around much more freely than today.  That's what hypertext was all about:  liberation from always linear (plodding, pedantic).

Don't let them steer the conversation away from Chernobyl and half lives just because this is "math class".  We're talking exp( ) and log( ).  Lets also talk atoms and beta decay.  Distribution patterns in air and fluid.  Osmosis.  Yes, more jumbled (in terms of topics).  Because we're not slaves to the old ways and plan to think in new ways, for our betterment (many of the old ways have failed miserably, lets be honest).

Kirby