# Wolfram Alpha and Using Computers for Computational Math Peer Response

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** Using Computers for Computational Math**: It seems that new technology is being pushed into classrooms everyday. While some technology is clearly useful for students, other tools may detract from students’ learning.

- Visit the website that was linked as this week’s “reading.” https://www.wolframalpha.com/
- Watch
**this video**of talk given by one of creators of Wolfram Alpha. - In 200 words or less, post a response on your reaction to the video.
- Do you feel this approach is realistic?
- Do you agree that simple computational mathematics should be done on computers?

__Peer Response 1__

Corinne

My first impressions are that computer-based courses are is very reasonable, and it is the future of math education. Still, I cannot (and to a degree don’t want to) imagine a world in which this transition occurs. Some reasons math education has changed so little since computers came around is that teachers believe in the value of computation, are untrained to teach any other way, and have long careers. For this transition to happen, the curricula would need to be written by engineers, biologists, economists, etc. This would make teaching it difficult but would make it relevant. The truth is, most math teachers don’t really understand how math is used in the world. I am very much afraid to admit I am one of those people.

I agree that computation is the only part of math the computer can do, and that we are not training our students in practical math by teaching them calculation. I understand why the presenter thinks teaching computation is a waste of time, and why he says it should be pursued by those interested, not forced upon all. Still, I am a person who loves computation and I can see why those who write math textbooks and curricula have difficulty abandoning it.

Students often point to some hypocrisy in the concept that we dumb down the problems in order to make the calculations. I know this is a struggle, even for my engaged, advanced and interested students because they want to see real world applications that are honest and ugly.

For now, perhaps when we deal with a problem set, we should add applications that are ugly and must be done on the computer so that students can see patterns and algorithms without doing the steps that are too rigorous for the course or for their pen-to-paper work.

__Peer Response 2__

Eric

I’ve thought about the idea Conrad Wolfram presents in his talk a number of times throughout my years of teaching as computers have entered the educational world. It seems to me that instead of education leading the advent of new ideas and concepts, we are about one generation behind. This of course leads to a discussion of funding, but that’s another discussion.

There are many real world situations that I encounter that I stop and wonder how others are able to understand when I have to take time to study even with my background. The math we work with in schools is very contrived to work out nicely for the students. Even our so called real world applications of the concepts are designed to work out with a nice and neat solution. Students quickly learn that if the problem isn’t working out nicely, then something is definitely wrong. The real world isn’t nice and many times the solutions are quite messy. So while I continue to teach the current curriculum, I have to agree with Conrad Wolfram and believe it is time for a great paradigm change in math education. We rely on computers in our everyday life to do so much and then at school we take theses tools away and make students compute things by hand. Before listening to his talk, I certainly would say all the concerns he brought up about they need to learn the basics and such, but he does make excellent points on why that learning is more of a niche and interest and not so much a must at this time.

I don’t know how this change would ever come about because it would be such a drastic departure from how we operate today and change cultivates fear, but he is right in saying the country that does this first will certainly lead the way for future generations.