Talk:IAE Newsletter

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Comment by Manny Norse 2/18/2011 Issue # 59

This is from an email sent to David Moursund.

Hi Dave,
Hope all is well. I read your latest edition, and thought I'd drop you a line....
The one line you had (copied below) about the use of calculators caught my attention. I find that many of my students (8th grade and up) don't have good number sense. The use of the calculator has actually retarded their growth and understanding because instead of developing number sense, they mindlessly use the calculator without any sense of reasonableness or accuracy. For example, yesterday I was working with a student who couldn't perform
in their head. When I pressed them to write it down, for 2 minutes he struggled to come up with the answer, and kept focusing on the number 14. I asked him if he used the calculator a lot, and he said yes. He told me his teacher allows it for everything, even on tests. This boy was in the "advanced 7th grade math class". I quickly reviewed the idea of subtraction with him and showed him how to break 546 down to 500+46, etc...he was obviously very capable, but his teacher this year, and many of his previous teachers all did the same thing- gave them a calculator.
I find that students who don't often use calculators up until Algebra II learn more math. When I ask my ARML students, who are indeed the very best in the state (and mostly Asian) what their calculator use was while growing up- nearly zero. When I ask my underachieving students in 8th grade, they say "every since 3rd grade". I suppose this is an oversimplification, and a bit of an exaggeration (but not much); it's not that I'm saying no to technology, I'm saying that the use of the calculator to do simple arithmetic is not good. Indeed, we would greatly enhance our student's understanding of math if we refrained from it's use until they are in advanced coursework (generally).
Just a few thoughts....hope all is well.

Comment by Edna DeHaven 11/17/2010, Issue # 54

This is from an email message sent to David Moursund.

This is one of your best! Maybe I say that because of my love of both music and language. How about digging into the research that shows the correlation of music education and better overall academic achievement? That could be fuel for including music in our schools.
Other suggestions:
How about broadening music beyond "song." Or, perhaps you mean song to include all forms of music. Orchestral music offers so much! For example, I really believe that playing the violin contributed to my daughter's keen ear for foreign languages. I have witnessed the French mistaking her for a native speaker; last summer in Italy, she quickly picked up enough Italian to get us around and communicate with Italians. The same was true in Greece and Spain on earlier trips. I haven't searched for research to validate my theory that developing an ear for music coincidentally develops an ear for language, but it seems quite possible.
I used to teach a sixth-grade gifted class that explored the mathematics of music. It was fascinating and the kids loved it.
There is also the possibility of analyzing and appreciating the creative processes involved in music and language. In regular and gifted classes I assisted kids in writing poetry and setting their poems to music. Another winner!
And finally, music offers lifetime mental stimulation and enjoyment. Now that my voice doesn't do what my brain tells it to and my fingers don't play the piano as fast or as accurately as my brain tells them to, my ears still let me listen to wonderful music that activates my brain and nourishes my soul.

Keep up the good work!

Comment by Ed Laughbaum 1/3/2010, Issue # 32

This is from an email message sent to David Moursund;

I always read your newsletter, but the content of this one is of special interest to me. Anyone who reads popular books from neuroscientists knows about the content of your sections "Working Memory" and "The Overflowing Brain." BUT, (and the reason for my email) you failed to give us the implications for education on what neuroscientists have to tell us about brain function. For example, I would like to argue that Klingberg's work means that current mainstream textbooks cause some of the learning problems, because they seriously tax working memory. (I am talking about page layout.) I know this is a simplistic example, but the issue is that you did not suggest educational implications of the neuroscience. Typical educators do not read research in the neurosciences. They are still hanging on to educational research pushed by NCTM. I am of the opinion that neuroscience applied to education is our salvation (if salvation is needed). Educators need to know how brain science should affect teaching. I just think you missed an opportunity.

Response to Ed Laughaum by David Moursund 1/12/2010

Hi Ed: Your observation fits in well with my recent interest in the issue of students learning to read math well enough so that they can read to learn in this area. Evidently most studetns do not reach this stage by the time they finish high school.

Certainly there are exceptions. Recently one student in a graduate course for preservice secondary school math teachers told me about learning math in the sixth grade by reading the book, because he was so mad at the teacher he refused to listen to the presentations in class. Another told me about learning to read math in middle school because his eyes were so poor he could not read the chalkboard.

Evidently most precollege math studetns think of "reading the math book" as searching for examples in the section they are currently studying that look nearly identical to the seatwork and homework problems.

My work on math maturity is related to your concern. There is evidence the the level of cognitive development of middle school students, relative to their age level, is decreasing. This suggests that increasingly the math content being taught to middle school students may be too far above the their math cognitive development level. Such an argument is often used in discussion of Algebra 1 for all and Algebra 2 for all.

Comment by Bob Albrecht 7/18/09 (Issue # 21)

Special Message for Teachers. Consider establishing a "futures" time period each week, in which you engage your students in an exploration of possible futures they will live in and how the subject(s) you are teaching are helping to prepare them for these possible futures. One way to do this is to select a topic from the (growing) list given below. Engage students in a discussion of what they know about the topic. Perhaps point them to some material to read. Engage them in a discussion of how the content you are teaching fits in with preparing them for life in a world in which the forecasts may well come true.

Yeah! My Mars adventures at C-TEC and Sonoma State University were like this. Imagine designing communities on Mars, say, 30 to 50 years from now. Involves every aspect of human endeavor.


Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson [everyone has a personal AI]
How to Live on Mars by Robert Zubrin

What is "school" like on Mars 30 - 50 years from now? How do kids learn in a Martian community? In our Sonoma State Mars Society and Mars Habitat courses, our student (mostly female future elementary school teachers) designed communities on Mars. I was involved in this for 7 years.

Comment by Liza Loop, 3/1/09

Thanks for the informative article [Issue #12], Dave.

I'd like to add an additional "literacy" that has been pivotal in my own work -- machine literacy. Unlike biota [all organisms in a given area], machines have a wide variety of states that affect the way they behave and respond. Computers and robots can serve as models of machines in general.

At one extreme end of the machine state spectrum is what happens when we take a hammer to our computer or throw it out the window. It comes apart and no longer responds to us in any coherent fashion. This is machine death and comparable to biological death.

By comparison, machines usually have an "off/on" switch. They can be functionally dead but can be turned back on. I used to tell my students that the surest way to control a robot is to take away its power source.

The next step toward a fully operating machine is to have its programming intact. If the machine is completely mechanical (a jacquard loom that uses punched cards, for example) the programming will return when the parts start to move again. Machines with their programs stored electronically need to have either back up power or a mechanical means of getting started again. Demonstrating this concept was much easier when we had to use paper tape to get our PDP8 restarted than it is now. My students could feel, read and understand the program punched into the tape which made the concept of a program quite concrete. Boot programs stored in ROM inside modern computers are invisible, untouchable and make the computer seem more like magic than something comprehensible to non-computer scientists.

Today, most people are familiar with using computers and one might claim, therefore, that they are more "computer literate." They even "program" many devices (e.g. telephones, alarm clocks, and computers) with very high level instruction sets. But I'm not sure these acts of programming really achieve computer literacy in the way that Art Luehrmann was advocating in the 1970's and '80's. Our machines, equipped with tiny batteries, don't lose their underlying programming when we turn the user interface off. We never confront the 1's and 0's aspect of building up machine function from the mechanical.

My own reason for promoting computer literacy was and still is, to keep human beings in control of the machines instead of the other way around. I don't want to let anyone (a bank teller, for example) to be able to tell me I can't see my balance because "the computer is down and won't let me do it." Rather, I want that teller to explain that the people who manage the bank have chosen not to maintain a manual system so that he or she can access my balance even when the computer is indisposed.

The truly computer literate person knows that machines are neutral tools of human beings and can never be tyrannized by excuses from those who direct the programming of machines.

Thanks for listening.

Sincerely, Liza Loop