TED Conversations

Conrad Wolfram


This conversation is closed.

Who could best contribute to the ideas of computer-based math education?

Based on the vision I set forth in my TED talk, we're hosting a key summit in London this November to drive a worldwide change to computer-based math education (http://www.computerbasedmath.org/events/londonsummit2011/index.html). Very interested in ideas of who could best contribute? And I'm not just talking educators but leaders who want radical change and have a stake in the future of STEM education. We've already got many countries, governments and quite a few fields represented but really want to make sure we don't miss key people out.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Sep 13 2011: Salman Khan would be my first choice. I would also suggest major players in the gaming industry because in terms of engagement with technology there is no tech-sector that is better. Try people from World of Warcraft, Zynga, or Sony because they all have games that have the models that are appropriate for math education.
    • Sep 29 2011: Thanks for the suggestions. Regarding Salman Khan - we'd be happy to welcome him because it would be nice to see his methodologies applied to computerbasedmath.org rather than just traditional math.

      Regarding the game community -- I do believe that there is much we can learn from how video games engage students but I'm not impressed by how most video games are too focused on mindless drilling.
      • Sep 30 2011: It's not clear to me what you mean by applying his methods to computerbasedmath.org. I don't find much on that website other than a link to the Wolfram Demonstration Project and some examples of using Mathematica from the Wolfram blog. While Mathematica is useful for running simulations, it is not a teaching metholodogy.

        I disagree with the theme of Conrad Wolfram's talk, that the teaching of math should be replaced with the teaching of computer programming. The two fields overlap in many ways, but their fundamental concepts are quite different. The mathematical concepts have to be understood before they can be implemented as a computer program.

        A good computer programmer is one who understands the domain to which the programming is being applied: engineering, finance, meteorology, music, and so on. To say that one could learn math by programming it, is equivalent to saying one could learn music by programming it. The fact that computers use binary arithmetic in their implementation is irrelevant. They use electric signals and solid state physics as well, but it would be folly to suggest that one could learn band theory simply by programming, without the background physics.

        Salman Khan uses computers in a very different way. He uses computers as his medium, as a time machine for his lectures. He uses it for analysis of the students progress. I think Wolfram is held back by his view of computers as just powerful calculators. TED itself is an example that computers are much more than that.

        I think to improve the teaching of math, you must first understand what the current problems are. Khan uses computers to fix the problem that one pace of teaching does not fit all. If that were the only problem, we'd be done now. Wolfram didn't really outline the problem that he was trying to fix, he just said that learning to calculate is a waste of time.

        So what are the specific problems?

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.