February 23, 2012, 6:48 am

By Robert Talbert

Someone asked me recently what was the one thing that’s changed the most about my teaching over the last 10 years. My response was that I’m a lot more likely now than I was in 2002 to organize my classes around *asking and answering questions* rather than *covering material*. Here’s one reason why.

The weekly *Mathematica* labs that we have in my Calculus 3 class are set up so that some background material (usually a combination of math concepts and new *Mathematica* commands) is presented in the lab handout followed by some situations centered around questions, the answers to which are likely to involve Calculus 3 and *Mathematica*. I said *likely*, not *inevitably*. There is no rule that says students must use Calculus 3 to answer the question. The only rules are: (1) the entire solution has to be done in a *Mathematica* notebook, and (2) the solutions have to be clear, convincing, and…

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September 28, 2011, 4:00 am

By Robert Talbert

Good stuff from the internet this past week:

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December 23, 2010, 8:00 am

By Robert Talbert

A partial answer to the questions I brought up in the last post about what authentic mathematics consists of, and how we get students to learn it genuinely, might be found in this TED talk by Conrad Wolfram called “Teaching kids real math with computers”. It’s 17 minutes long, but take some time to watch the whole thing:

[ted id=1007]

Profound stuff. Are we looking at the future of mathematics education *in utero* here?

January 20, 2010, 10:31 am

By Robert Talbert

Some of the most valuable courses I took while I was in school were so because, in addition to learning a specific body of content (and having it taught well), I picked up something extra along the way that turned out to be just as cool or valuable as the course material itself. Examples:

- I was a psychology major at the beginning of my undergraduate years and made it into the senior-level experiment design course as a sophomore. In that course I learned how to use SPSS (on an Apple IIe!). That was an “extra” that I really enjoyed, perhaps moreso than the experiment I designed. (I wish I still knew how to use it.)
- In my graduate school differential geometry class (I think that was in 1995), we used Mathematica to plot torus knots and study their curvature and torsion. Learning Mathematica and how to use it for mathematical investigations were the “something extra” that I took from the …

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June 3, 2009, 12:06 pm

By Robert Talbert

By now, you’ve probably heard about Wolfram|Alpha, the “computational knowledge engine” that was recently rolled out by the makers of Mathematica. If you haven’t, here’s a good place to start. There is considerable debate among ed-tech people as to exactly what kind of impact Wolfram|Alpha, abbreviated W|A, is going to have in education. For me, W|A is still a little raw and gives backĀ too many “*Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input*” responses when given mathematically legitimate (at least they seem so to me) queries. But the potential is there for W|A to be a game-changing technological advance, doing for quantitative information what Google did for text and web-based information back in the 90′s. (W|A is already its own verb.)

One thing that seems clear is that, with technology available that is free and powerful and hardware-agnostic, technology …

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