Has the math(s) brand become toxic?

Has the math(s) brand become toxic?

For once I'm not talking about the contents of school maths but the name and its associations.

The question I'm asking is if our core technical subject wasn't termed "maths" but "nicebrand" would things go better in and out of education?

Sadly, I've started to conclude the answer is yes. I now suspect that using the brand of maths is damaging core technical education, its reform, and efforts to equip society for the AI age.

Believe me, this is not the conclusion I want. I've spent years of my life somehow connected with the word "maths". But much as I might not like my conclusion, I want the essence of subject maths to succeed; so I don't want the name to kill the subject—a much worse outcome.

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Post-truth: shocking indictment of today's maths education

Post-truth: shocking indictment of today's maths education

Listening to debates pre-Brexit, one of the most familiar cries from the British public to politicians was "we need more information, a more informed debate", implying "tell us more accurately how our vote will play out, you must know!" but then when trends or figures were presented "you can't believe any expert".

Unpacking these sentiments is enlightening. Effectively the clamour was for a detailed model and computation of what leaving the EU versus staying in might mean, particularly in practical financial ways like affordability of housing.

The fact is, no-one knows, even approximately. In practice you can't predict it. The ecosystem is too complex, with huge numbers of feedback loops and linked components, many of which even individually are almost unknowable.

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Anchoring Computational Thinking in today’s curriculum

Anchoring Computational Thinking in today’s curriculum

There is a lot of talk of "Computational Thinking" as a new imperative of education, so I wanted to address a few questions that keep coming up about it. What is it? Is it important? How does it relate to today's school subjects? Is Computer-Based Maths (CBM) a Computational Thinking curriculum?

Firstly, I've got to say, I really like the term.

To my mind, the overriding purpose of education is "to enrich life" (yours, your society's, not just in "riches" but in meaning) and different ways in which you can think about how you look at ideas, challenges and opportunities seems crucial to achieving that.

Therefore using a term of the form “xxx Thinking" that cuts across boundaries but can support traditional school subjects (eg. History, English, Maths) and emphasises an approach to thinking is important to improving education.

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How Significant is Significance Arithmetic?

How Significant is Significance Arithmetic?

Central to our mission at computerbasedmath.org is thinking through from first principles what's important and what's not to the application of maths in the real, modern, computer-based world. This is one of the most challenging aspects of our project: it's very hard to shake off the dogma of our own maths education and tell whether something is for now and the future, or if really it's for the history of maths.

This week's issue is significance arithmetic, similar to what you might know from school as significant figures. The idea is when you do a calculation not just a single value but bounds that represent the uncertainty of your calculation too are calculated. You can get an idea of how accurate your answer is or indeed if it has any digits of accuracy at all.

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Maths v. Music Education

Maths v. Music Education

I was debating Computer-Based Maths education (CBM) with a sceptic before the summer and he brought up the analogy of music education to support various claims he was making of maths.

As I understood his central point it was that practising hand calculations is akin to practising music pieces--it's simply the way to learn to play. Also there was some attempt to draw the analogy between listening to music and CBM, whereas playing was like traditional hand-calculating maths.

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Announcement: our first CBM country

Announcement: our first CBM country

I'm very excited to announce that computerbasedmath.org has found the first country ready for our completely new kind of maths education: it's Estonia. (...and here's the press release).

I thought Estonia could be first. They are very active on using technology (first to publish cabinet decisions immediately online, first to include programming in their mainstream curriculum), have ambition to improve their (already well respected) STEM aptitude and lack the dogma and resistance to change of many larger countries. There aren't so many countries with all those characteristics.

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