Maths ≠ calculating


Economy and technology progress puts maths at the very top of the list of priorities in the modern world. And yet we see mathematics is failing. Students think it is difficult and teachers find it as a huge struggle to move mathematics in their students forward. The question comes: How is this possible despite how much we need them?

Computers are the big dividing factors between maths in education and maths outside the classroom. In the real world, maths is all about problem solving, simulation, modeling, thinking out loud what the important questions are and analyzing the results. We learn maths because of three reasons:

  1. Technical jobs drive the economy more than anything else; therefore, math and STEM are very important.
  2. We need some basics to survive in today’s economy and everyday life.
  3. Logical mind training is going to help us in new situations.

But the current mathematics we have in our education system are hardly achieving any of these goals. So, what should we change?

The answer to this question is actually the answer to this general question: What are mathematics?

And the answer is given in the next four steps:

  1. Thinking of the right question, because if you post a wrong question you will not get the appropriate right answer.
  2. Converting a problem from the real world to the language of mathematics, that is, in a mathematical form.
  3. Calculating – getting the result in mathematical form.
  4. Taking that result and verifying it in the real world.

So, 80% of the time in our schools kids are doing step 3 by hands while that is the only step that machines can do better than humans. So, kids should be more engaged in steps 1, 2 and 4. And one fact should be noticed: math ≠ calculating.

So how can technology be used in schools? I will tell you my story about that.

While doing my last exam I used a software called mathematica to make some simulations. It was about complex logarithmic functions. So there was something called a Riemann’s surface shown on the picture. The problem was to make a function bijective on the field of complex numbers. As it was hard to visualize, I make some simulation and it helped me and others who were present to understand the matter. Also, during my maths studies I always used this software to make a lot of calculus to spend my time solving equations, integrals, determinants and others. Even if you don’t have that software you can use the online tool on the next link where you can do a lot of stuff.

But someone could say: You need to do basics first, which means you have to work stuff on paper before you do it on a computer. Yes, but once basics are caught there is no need to spend a lot of time on calculus. Let the machine do it; our focus should be on steps 1,2 and 4. Letting kids use technology and math would be more interesting for them. They can verify results, extend ideas, be creative, and start programming, being more independent in learning and all that leads to one goal: math will not be just a scrawl on the paper but the place where fiction and real world get connect.

Article written by: Igor Bjelosevic, Scientix Deputy Ambassador

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