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making math interactive
Posted:
Feb 22, 2013 12:47 PM



My daughter develops high enthusiasm for STEM and then finds herself in one of those grinds, like in high school, where they drone on at the whiteboard ad infinitum. Where's the engagement? Where's the hands on? It's like being in a language lab to learn Spanish, but only the teacher gets to talk.
The interactive / engaged math class, on the contrary, features some kind of command line or responsive tablet of your own, where you learn to scribe and solve, not just for homework, but as a way of learning the information. Better than flash cards. Your teachers demonstrate using it effectively in the classroom.
With regard to computer languages, only some languages natively sport what's called REPL: Read, Evaluate, Print, Loop (i.e. do it again). In xBase (marketed as dBase) we had "the dot prompt". In Python, it's >>>. APL has it, J has it, Scheme has it. BASIC has it. LOGO. Those that don't (e.g. C) are not as easy to tackle at first.
Applying that same sense to math, we went from slide rules, as a magical device (that needed to be explained, in terms of logs, very healthy) to scientific calculators to computers in short order. The University of Illinois did a lot of experiments and to this day its offshoots aim to provide Mathematica as the "dot prompt" for calculus and much else besides. Wolfram continues to make inroads.
So do a lot of the interactive (REPL) languages though, J included. The statistics may not be impressive (yet) but there's a lot of propitious talk. One of those talks will be mine today for example, details to follow.
Kirby



