nearer Katrina's epicenter tune in and bliss out

on 'Warriors of the Net' (why wait for stupid big

dummy textbooks to catch up?). They feel more

empowered by Python and Ubuntu than by any

King's English I'd warrant, given how the latter

has been dumbed down (slowed, degraded) by

unimaginative bankers who can't fathom open

source and its math-teaching significance to

our digitally savvy ethnicities.

--- Kirby Urner

http://www.cs.haverford.edu/

Any of you stateside tracking our 'Math Wars' know there's a movement

afoot to legislate

excellence through politicized standards bodies, with parents

encouraged to push their

"math militancy" into the foreground as a chief concern for local

politicians to grapple with.

I editorialize against this trend at my Oregon Curriculum Network

website, in part

because I'm leery of state standards becoming boring clones of one

another, reaching

an apex in some National Standard that's as dangerously obsolete and

unimaginative

as most pre-college math teaching today.

Here's a link to said editorial:

http://www.4dsolutions.net/ocn/editorial.html

I'm especially suspicious of the inertia behind indefinitely continuing

this pre-college

focus on climbing Calculus Mountain (as in getting over it), with

little attention given

to the regional and/or ethnic differences that might argue against such

totalitarian

uniformity. Calculus is not the be all end all mathematical machinery

in every walk

of life, and I say this as a former full time high school math teacher

who taught

AP Calc proficiently, had many success stories (OK, so I'm not famous

like Jaime

Escalante, who cares? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094027/ )

Here in the Silicon Forest, it's the discrete math of computer science

that excites

many students, is their ticket to hands-on access to the defining toyz

of our region,

i.e. flatscreens, CPUs, one computer per child, a shared classroom

projector, and

with a fat bandwidth pipe to/from the Internet.

Our math students would like the option of specializing in computer

languages and

algorithms rather earlier than is traditional, as a part of that very

important self-casting

and self-scripting that goes on in one's formative years. They've told

me this to my

face. I'm not just making this up.

How are students to realistically decide if a future in computer

science is really for

them, if all the schools' resources have been diverted by narrowing

requirements

that coercively force kids *away* from more experimental approaches

that might

center around Python, neighboring agiles, as notations of choice?

Here's what a college level math or philosophy course of the future

might look like,

if we don't kowtow to the calculus moguls, other vote-seeking

piggybackers treating

the math wars like some private popularity contest:

def checkbucky(n):

"""

http://www.rwgrayprojects.com/synerg...s02/p2000.html

"""

return 10 * sum([i**2 for i in range(1, n+1)]) + 2*(n) + 1

[1, 13, 55, 147, 309, 561, 923, 1415, 2057, 2869]>>[checkbucky(i) for i in range(10)]

""">>def checkoeis(n):

http://www.research.att.com/~njas/sequences/A005902

"""

return (2*n+1)*(5*n**2 +5*n+3)/3

[1, 13, 55, 147, 309, 561, 923, 1415, 2057, 2869]>>[checkoeis(i) for i in range(10)]

One strategy to combat the dumbing down state standards movement is to

encourage

local institutions of higher learning to reassert their ability to

offer guidance. Follow

the example of MIT and open source more curriculum materials, both as a

recruting

tools and as a models for classroom teachers seeking ideas for lesson

planning.

Faculties should advertise standards proposals, not leave it to state

governments to

appropriate the Ivory Tower's historic prerogatives.

California is a good example of where Oregon might be headed, if we

don't apply the

brakes. Given how upper level math professors typically leave the

lower levels to

non-mathematician education specialists, a few overbearing types,

flaunting their

credentials, have managed to muscle their way in to the legislative

process, while

encouraging their counterparts across the land to do likewise. These

activist math

warriors like to fly the "anti-fuzzy math" banner as a rallying point,

but offer only

"turn back the clock" solutions in case of victory, all of them bereft

of much computer

language exposure, e.g. minus any Python + VPython fractals, or vector

arithmetic.

In Portland, defending our freedom to explore alternative, more

futuristic curricula, means

focusing on the existing relationships between Portland's public

schools and its Portland

State University. We also have our Institute for Science, Engineering

and Public Policy

(isepp.org), a think tank with a reputation for keeping our students

ahead of the curve.

And last but not least, we have Saturday Academy (saturdayacadem y.org),

an institution

created by Silicon Forest executives in the last generation (23 years

ago), and with a similar mission: to protect future career

opportunities from encroachment by mediocre and/or simply

unsuitable curriculum imports. We have a knowledge-based economy to

protect. We can't

afford to be "just like everyone else" when it comes to mathematics and

engineering.

Python should already be much stronger in our region, given its many

advantages, especially

over calculators. Computer science already suffers the disadvantage of

being an elective,

with its teachers dispersed to cover music or gym, required math

courses, whenever the

school's budget tightens. Further straitjacketing the math curriculum

to forever lock in some

"one size fits all" formula, will only add to the delay and further

frustrate Python's potential widespread adoption by eager beaver

students.

Kirby Urner

Oregon Curriculum Network

4dsolutions.net/ocn/