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Topic: Mathematical maturity and lower-order knowledge & skills

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Subject:   Competition with Computers
Author: Craig Russell
Date: May 15 2003
"In essence, we are teaching students to compete with the computer tools rather
than to work with them."--from Dave's message of May 9.

This sentence, I think, is crucial to the fundamentals of teaching.  There's
always the argument that "someone has to know how to program the computers," but
is that really a good justification for teaching some of the skills that we
teach?  A colleague once said, of a science curriculum, "the [high school]
curriculum doesn't make much difference for the kids who major in a science
field in college--they'll pick up what they need.  The curriculum is vitally
important for those students for whom the curriculum is a terminal experience."
The person who has to program the computers will learn what they need to know,
regardless of a teacher.  But a student turned off to math because he gets
bogged down in doing arithmetic (or any low-level skill) by hand has lost an
opportunity to be able to describe the world in quantitative ways, and may never
appreciate the beauty of mathematics.  So, if "low level" means anything a
computer can do, bring on the computers.  Let computers do the work so that
students can get beyond the low-level and start asking real,
critical-thinking questions.


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