Education

Math class without hand calculation? Estonia is moving toward it

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Conrad-Wolfram-computer-mathMath class should be fascinating, right? At TED2010, Conrad Wolfram suggests that one reason it often isn’t is hand calculation. Conrad Wolfram: Teaching kids real math with computersConrad Wolfram: Teaching kids real math with computersMost students spend years in math class learning to work sums by hand that a computer can now do. After all, computers are far better at calculation than human beings will ever be, while people are far better at defining problems and coming up with creative solutions.

Wolfram’s website, ComputerBasedMath.org, supports curriculums that allow teachers to focus on real-world math problems, so students can study concepts rather than calculation. As Wolfram says on the site:

“Rather than topics like solving quadratic equations or factorizing polynomials, Computer-Based Math focuses on using the power of math to solve real-world problems like, ‘Should I insure my mobile?,’ ‘How long will I live?’ or ‘What makes a beautiful shape?’”

This week, Wolfram announced its first test country: Estonia will be using the program to create a new statistics curriculum for students. Pilot testing of the curriculum in 30 classrooms will start in early 2014. From there, they plan to roll it out to all schools shortly after completing testing in September 2014.

Why adopt this program? The country’s Minister of Education and Research, Jaak Aaviksoo, says, “We want to lead the world in rethinking education in the technology-driven world.”

Comments (2)

  • JohnGeorge Lo commented on Feb 15 2013

    “…such machines, by which the scholar may, by turning a crank, grind out the solution of a problem without the fatigue of mental application, would by its introduction into schools, do incalculable injury.” R Thornton, 1847 (from the Wikipedia entry “Technological singularity”)
    Well, I guess we are all suffering the *injuries* today. As artificial intelligence continue to advance at ever faster speed, humans will no longer be able to compete. No matter how well-trained a mental arithmatics performer is, he/she is still confine to the limited speed and memory (small storage and very lousy when it comes to memorizing details) of biological brain. AIs will replace us, unless we cyborgize. And of course, if we cyborgize, the traditional mental arithmetics training would have little relevance.
    I salute Prof Wolfram for his vision and hard work. May every schoolchildren benefit from his work.

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