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Dec 10, 2006, 7:03:27 PM12/10/06

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Cyber-curricula have a leveling aspect, as kids

nearer Katrina's epicenter tune in and bliss out

on 'Warriors of the Net' (why wait for stupid big

dummy textbooks to catch up?). They feel more

empowered by Python and Ubuntu than by any

King's English I'd warrant, given how the latter

has been dumbed down (slowed, degraded) by

unimaginative bankers who can't fathom open

source and its math-teaching significance to

our digitally savvy ethnicities.

nearer Katrina's epicenter tune in and bliss out

on 'Warriors of the Net' (why wait for stupid big

dummy textbooks to catch up?). They feel more

empowered by Python and Ubuntu than by any

King's English I'd warrant, given how the latter

has been dumbed down (slowed, degraded) by

unimaginative bankers who can't fathom open

source and its math-teaching significance to

our digitally savvy ethnicities.

--- Kirby Urner

Any of you stateside tracking our 'Math Wars' know there's

a movement afoot to legislate excellence through politicized

standards bodies, with parents encouraged to push their

"math militancy" into the foreground as a chief concern for

local politicians to grapple with.

I editorialize against this trend at my Oregon Curriculum

Network website, in part because I'm leery of state standards

becoming boring clones of one another, reaching an

apex in some National Standard that's as dangerously

obsolete and unimaginative as most pre-college math

teaching today.

Here's a link to said editorial:

http://www.4dsolutions.net/ocn/editorial.html

I'm especially suspicious of the inertia behind indefinitely

continuing this pre-college focus on climbing Calculus Mountain

(as in getting over it), with little attention given to the regional

and/or ethnic differences that might argue against such

totalitarian uniformity. Calculus is not the be all end all

mathematical machinery in every walk of life, and I say this

as a former full time high school math teacher who taught

AP Calc proficiently, had many success stories (OK, so

I'm not famous like Jaime Escalante, who cares?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094027/ )

Here in the Silicon Forest, it's the discrete math of computer

science that excites many students, is their ticket to hands-on

access to the defining toyz of our region, i.e. flatscreens,

CPUs, one computer per child, a shared classroom projector,

and with a fat bandwidth pipe to/from the Internet.

Our math students would like the option of specializing in

computer languages and algorithms rather earlier than is

traditional, as a part of that very important self-casting and

self-scripting that goes on in one's formative years. They've

told me this to my face. I'm not just making this up.

How are students to realistically decide if a future in computer

science is really for them, if all the schools' resources have

been diverted by narrowing requirements that coercively force

kids *away* from more experimental approaches that might

center around Python, neighboring agiles, as notations of

choice?

Here's what a college level math or philosophy course of the future

might look like, if we don't kowtow to the calculus moguls, other

vote-seeking piggybackers treating the math wars like some

private popularity contest:

def checkbucky(n):

"""

http://www.rwgrayprojects.com/synergetics/s02/p2000.html

"""

return 10 * sum([i**2 for i in range(1, n+1)]) + 2*(n) + 1

>>> [checkbucky(i) for i in range(10)]

[1, 13, 55, 147, 309, 561, 923, 1415, 2057, 2869]

>>> def checkoeis(n):

"""

http://www.research.att.com/~njas/sequences/A005902

"""

return (2*n+1)*(5*n**2+5*n+3)/3

>>> [checkoeis(i) for i in range(10)]

[1, 13, 55, 147, 309, 561, 923, 1415, 2057, 2869]

One strategy to combat the dumbing down state standards

movement is to encourage local institutions of higher learning

to reassert their ability to offer guidance. Follow the example

of MIT and open source more curriculum materials, both as a

recruiting tools and as a models for classroom teachers seeking

ideas for lesson planning. Faculties should advertise standards

proposals, not leave it to state governments to appropriate

the Ivory Tower's historic prerogatives.

California is a good example of where Oregon might be headed,

if we don't apply the brakes. Given how upper level math

professors typically leave the lower levels to non-mathematician

education specialists, a few overbearing professor types, flaunting

their credentials, have managed to muscle their way in to the

legislative process, while encouraging their counterparts

across the land to do likewise. These activist math warriors

like to fly the "anti-fuzzy math" banner as a rallying point,

but offer only "turn back the clock" solutions in case of victory,

all of them bereft of much computer language exposure,

e.g. minus any Python + VPython fractals, or vector arithmetic.

In Portland, defending our freedom to explore alternative, more

futuristic curricula, means focusing on the existing relationships

between Portland's public schools and its Portland State

University. We also have our Institute for Science, Engineering

and Public Policy (isepp.org), a think tank with a reputation for

keeping our students ahead of the curve.

And last but not least, we have Saturday Academy -

(saturdayacademy.org), an institution created by Silicon Forest

executives in the last generation (23 years ago), and with a

similar mission: to protect future career opportunities from

encroachment by mediocre and/or simply unsuitable curriculum

imports. We have a knowledge-based economy to protect.

We can't afford to be "just like everyone else" when it comes

to mathematics and engineering.

Python should already be much stronger in our region, given

its many advantages, especially over calculators. Computer

science already suffers the disadvantage of being an elective,

with its teachers dispersed to cover music or gym, required math

courses, whenever the school's budget tightens. Further

straitjacketing the math curriculum to forever lock in some

"one size fits all" formula, will only add to the delay and further

frustrate Python's potential widespread adoption by eager

beaver students.

Kirby Urner

Oregon Curriculum Network

4dsolutions.net/ocn/

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