Some items on math education

Is math education too abstract? — from Audrey Watters

From DSC:
Which reminds me of this iPad-based app
which seeks to take some of that abstration away:


Also see:




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Apollo to buy adaptive-learning company for $75-Million — from The Chronicle by Josh Keller


The Apollo Group, which runs the University of Phoenix, announced on Tuesday that it plans to pay $75-million to purchase Carnegie Learning, which develops interactive math instruction that adapts to the needs of individual students.

20 most impressive science fair projects of all time — from

From Brett Victor’s “Kill Math” page

The power to understand and predict the quantities of the world should not be restricted to those with a freakish knack for manipulating abstract symbols.

When most people speak of Math, what they have in mind is more its mechanism than its essence. This “Math” consists of assigning meaning to a set of symbols, blindly shuffling around these symbols according to arcane rules, and then interpreting a meaning from the shuffled result. The process is not unlike casting lots.

This mechanism of math evolved for a reason: it was the most efficient means of modeling quantitative systems given the constraints of pencil and paper. Unfortunately, most people are not comfortable with bundling up meaning into abstract symbols and making them dance. Thus, the power of math beyond arithmetic is generally reserved for a clergy of scientists and engineers (many of whom struggle with symbolic abstractions more than they’ll actually admit).

We are no longer constrained by pencil and paper. The symbolic shuffle should no longer be taken for granted as the fundamental mechanism for understanding quantity and change. Math needs a new interface.

Also see:


Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world [TED]


Kevin Slavin argues that we’re living in a world designed for — and increasingly controlled by — algorithms. In this riveting talk from TEDGlobal, he shows how these complex computer programs determine: espionage tactics, stock prices, movie scripts, and architecture. And he warns that we are writing code we can’t understand, with implications we can’t control.

Relevant to mathematics; shaping our world; ethics; media; culture; society;
computer science; technologies; stock markets/business; architecture.

From DSC:
First of all, I ran across this item:

250 years of Bayes Theorem -- a brilliant minister and mathematician; the man behind Bayes Theorem


Which reminded me of this item:

And they say God does not exist -- and I ask, then what about His fingerprints?

Which reminded me of some great feedback from Randall Pruim, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Calvin College, who wasn’t impressed with the importance or mysteriousness of this particular sequence or the above video clip…but who also provided me with some papers, each with the words “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics” in the title:

Anyway, I can’t say I understand all of this. But I believe God’s fingerprints are on many events, things, and changes that we experience — some of these things we see, but many are invisible.

May your Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter morning be especially meaningful this year for you and yours! Here’s to our Creator, Redeemer, and Friend!

Daniel Christian

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DreamBox Learning CEO to speak on adaptive learning at Arizona State University Education Innovation Summit – from

DreamBox Learning (, the leading adaptive learning company, today announced that its President and Chief Executive Officer, Jessie Woolley-Wilson, will speak at the Arizona State (ASU) Education Innovation Summit about the positive impact of intelligent adaptive technology in the classroom. The panel session — Is Farmville the Future of Learning?  Games, Social Platforms, Adaptive Technology – will be held on Wednesday, April 6 at 1:15 p.m. at SkySong, the ASU Innovation Center in Scottsdale. The full Education Innovation Summit runs from April 5-7.

“The ASU Education Innovation Summit provides a platform for education and technology trailblazers to come together in a think tank environment to share ideas about how to ensure that our kids, teachers and school administrators have the critical tools to achieve academic greatness,” said Jessie Woolley-Wilson, President and CEO of DreamBox Learning. “I’m very excited to join respected industry colleagues to discuss how intelligent adaptive learning technology, social platforms, and gaming principles are collectively having a transformative impact on our education system and future generations of learners.”

Ms. Woolley-Wilson will share insights on the evolving adaptive learning sector as well as showcase how DreamBox Learning’s intelligent adaptive learning platform is leading the transformation, helping kids at any skill level achieve math proficiency.

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“Every Prodigi ® lesson begins with Easy questions that review prerequisite concepts and get students warmed up. Based on student performance, questions increase in difficulty to Medium, and then to Hard (examination level), and finally Extreme (recreational). Not only that, but students have live access to hints and worked solutions to plug any gaps in their knowledge”

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Algebra, meet the iPad: A year-long study explores learning with the tablet — fromMind/Shift by Tina Barseghian

HMH Fuse


Q. How will the iPad-taught class different from a traditional algebra class?

What we’ve seen in practice is the fact that it’s bringing everything to one place that’s making it exciting. The convenience factor, the simplicity factor — that’s revolutionary. For example, if you’re working through a lesson, there are three or four algorithms presented. With a textbook, if you want to learn more about one of the examples, you have to stop looking in your book and go online to our website and navigate that particular section and view our video there.

Instead, on the iPad, you simply click on “view video” and up comes our professor, Dr. Edward Burger, the Bill Nye of education. Students have written to him saying he’s changed their opinion of what math is. So to have him right there, you can see how it’s natural for students to tap “view video,” as opposed to setting their book down and going to the computer.

Another example is, when students are working on a problem, they can simply click on “check answer,” and up comes, “that’s correct, and here’s why,” or “that’s incorrect, and here’s why.” As opposed to when they’re working on paper or even online, those pieces are a little more drawn out.

The Ultimate Study Guide: Wolfram Alpha Launches “Course Assistant” Apps — from ReadWriteWeb by Audrey Watters

The computational knowledge engine Wolfram|Alpha is launching the first three of a series of new “course assistant” apps today. These apps, available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, are designed to take advantage of the Wolfram|Alpha technology in the service of supporting some of the most popular courses in high school and college.

The idea is to be able to quickly access the pertinent capabilities of Wolfram|Alpha relevant for specific subject areas. Currently, these subject areas are Algebra, Calculus, and Music Theory. But the company says it plans to add apps for other subjects – “for every major course, from elementary school to graduate school,” – including those fields outside math and science.

From DSC:
Notice the term engine (in bold maroon above).
This is the type of sophisticated programming that will increasingly be baked into future learning products — as the software seeks to learn more about each learner while providing each learner with a more customized learning experience…pushing them, but aiming to encourage — not discourage — them. I can see an opt-in program where each of us can build a cloud/web-based learner profile — and allow such an engine to be “fed” that data.

Math that moves -- the use of the iPad in K-12 -- from the New York Times


From DSC:
I post this here — with higher ed included in the tags/categories — because if the trend within K-12 continues (i.e. that of using such technologies as the iPad, digital textbooks, mobile learning devices, etc.), students’ expectations WILL be impacted. When they hit our doorsteps, they will come with their heightened sets of expectations. The question is, will we in higher ed be ready for them?

The Magic of the Music — from Mobile Learning Services; original posting from Katherine Burdick’s Mobile iEducator blog

Magic of the Music


  • Audio and video features bring a deeper level of understanding to the text.
  • Fun, interactive geography lesson encourages readers to use maps and scale of miles to calculate distance.
  • Motivating math activities give the opportunity for participation by individuals or pairs.
  • User is able to personalize the story by uploading personal photos and drawings.
  • Recording feature lets readers record themselves singing or retelling a favorite tale.
  • Links to the company website allow parents or teachers to download additional support materials to keep the learning growing outside the book.
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