Saturday, March 24, 2012

ICTCM 2012

The 24th International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics (March 23-24, 2012) in Orlando, FL, had about 1000 participants.  Keynoter Conrad  Wolfram ("Stop Teaching Calculating, Start Teaching Math") told the audience that the way to fix math education is to adopt computer-based math.

This is the message in his TED video.  

Wolfram likened the teaching of paper-and-pencil computations to ancient Greek.  It's great that some people want to study such things, but these topics should not be part of a core education.  Because people (other than math teachers) in the real world who need mathematics do their computations with computers, we should not be teaching computations but teaching instead how to ask the correct questions, how to translate the questions into mathematical syntax, and how to interpret the results of computer calculations into a solution in the real world.

He also gave the analogy that composition is to English as programming is to mathematics.  We should be teaching programming in our math classes, but using a higher level language such as (coincidentally) Mathematica.

I was personally involved in two ICTCM sessions.  I co-presented with Julie Phelps and Andre Freeman on a talk about the Statway and Quantway projects of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  Andre did the lion's share, describing the homework (a.k.a "out of classroom experience") system MyStatway (based on Carnegie Mellon's OLI statistics course) and spreadsheet simulations that are part of the Statway package of resources.

I also gave a solo session: "Knowledge Exchange Networks and MathDL".

The sessions highlighting NCAT Emporium models for course redesign continue not to impress me.  At least one two-year college campus can claim that the students show great success (not only in developmental math courses but also) in the transfer math courses following an Emporium model developmental math course.  But the (unstated) caveat is that all the classes are taught in the Emporium model, which means that the student assessments in the transfer math course are all graded by the computer, specifically by MyMathLab.  (I do not believe that MyMathLab or any other current computer-graded system can reasonably score questions that ask for interpretations or explanations in complete sentences, but I  believe that we should expect our college students to be able to answer such questions.)

I liked Valencia Community College's idea of a "Math 24/7 Tutorial Website" (Jody DeVoe, Cathy Ferrer, and Jennifer Lawhon).  25 VCC math faculty created hundreds of videos (via Smartpens, flip cameras, Jing, etc.) and then created a webpage of links.

I'll also want to think more about Sarah Mabrouk's one-way use of Twitter--students follow her (class-specific Twitter account), she does not follow any students--to increase student engagement.

But I never made it to any of the theme parks.