Classroom 2005 – Laptops Take the Monotony Out of Learning Math

Ah, the familiar dread of math class. The traditional, cold, chalkboard-and-textbook, with a lecture about as stimulating as a Tae-bo infomercial to boot. Well, out with the old, as they say — laptops are changing the way students will study math in the future — and, at Liberty High School in Blue Hill, Maine — the future is now.

Seymour Papert, professor emeritus of education and media technology at MIT, recently visited Liberty High for a day-long forum to explain his 40-year foray into the world of computer-based math — changing how students learn math into a totally computer-based curriculum.

One of those projects is now taking off in the school’s robotics lab, where Papert helped students create computer programs to create virtual “towns” and “villages,” along with student-built robotic trains.

It’s the perfect example of “learning by doing”: while building a virtual “town” with a railroad, students can mathematically determine how the railroad, for example, will affect the town’s economy.

And figuring that out takes applied mathematics.

Liberty High Director Arnold Greenberg says students are learning math by programming their computers to operate those models, including mining and fishing “villages.”

It’s simply project-based learning, which focuses on the kind of math that will be used in the future — math for the “digital age,” as Greenberg puts it. The virtual “towns” and “villages” modeled on the system require mathematical computations — but without a calculator, compass, or protractor.

Greenberg also says math educators are turning a more focused eye to digital work, computer programming, and robotics, as opposed to the dry, traditional, textbook approach.

Instead of simply memorizing formulas and parroting the right answers back to teachers or on exams, students now will “learn to learn” in a totally different way — by requiring them to think about HOW to arrive at a mathematical equation on their own.

Now, learning with laptops will unite math-heads and math-haters alike — forever.

Source –

Related articles:

A Laptop in every satchel

A Laptop education – Estera’s story

By Catherine Van Herrin

Friday, June 17, 2005