“Today, children, we will learn about sand properties. But first, choose your learning equipment… You can play with this beautiful orange plastic shovel, or you can play with this 500HP orange bucket loader.”
For some reason people like to feel powerful. They like to see that their efforts have dramatic effects. That is why most children will be more interested to play with the bucket loader. And that is why we should offer them to do math with computers.
Even if a math teacher is competent enough to elegantly reach their points by only using pencil and a sheet of paper, it is not the teacher’s competence in question here. It is student’s enthusiasm that we have to work on. So, let student feel the power of math. Let them feel the heavy equipment – the computer.
And then, after he/she got them interested, the teacher can decide to provide insight into the deep beauty of math. Some students will eventually understand that beauty, some of them never will – but they will all make a try.
This is what I wanted to tell after watching this Conrad Wolfram “Teaching kids real math with computers” video. As you can see, I certainly agree with him. (Except for the part that math can be taught by programming computers – well, maybe it can, but we don’t want to produce suicidal young mathematicians… this is an attempted programmer’s joke, if you wonder why I just said that.)
What I think is that the Math-o-mir software can really help both, teachers and students, by making a transition from pen-and-paper to computer easier. With Math-o-mir one can do all the same things as with paper, but at the same time, high-computing-power abilities are just few mouse clicks away.
One last note… I am not much fan of math software that is intended to teach math step-by-step. This is teacher’s job. Instead, I am a fan of math software that just sits there and waits for someone to move right handles and push right buttons. Like this heavy bucket loader – it doesn’t attempt to teach you anything about properties of sand, but still you will learn a lot, and have much fun, if you take it to an empty beach for a while.