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¿Por qué todavía enseñamos a los escolares a calcular manualmente?

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Conrad Wolfram

Físico y matemático

Conrad Wolfram, físico y matemático, es el director estratégico y cofundador europeo del grupo de compañías Wolfram.
Wolfram Research se especializa en ampliar los límites de la computación, las matemáticas, y el conocimiento, incluyendo la construcción del software Mathematica y del buscador de conocimiento Wolfram|Alpha.
Su instigación y liderazgo de iniciativas técnicas y empresariales ha sido básica para muchas innovaciones fundamentales en la industria de la computación técnica. Conrad da conferencias regularmente sobre temas que van desde la tecnología del futuro a la nueva era del conocimiento y la reforma de la educación de matemáticas. Recientemente fundó computerbasedmath.org.
Conrad es licenciado en ciencias naturales y en matemáticas por la Universidad de Cambridge.
Why are we still teaching schoolchildren to calculate by hand?

Why are we still teaching schoolchildren to calculate by hand? Most people think kids should learn maths and I agree with that. But, what maths? What is it? Why are we trying to teach it? There’s no question there’s a real problem with maths education at the moment; we put all these resources in it, it’s pretty much a compulsory subject for many years in most children’s lives. And yet, most people are pretty dissatisfied with the outcome. Teachers find it difficult to teach, students don’t seem very engaged in it, employers don’t think they know enough, governments think we’re not producing enough technical people.
I think this question of calculating, what’s done on computer and what’s done by hand, is key to unlocking a solution to this problem. You see, outside education, almost all calculating is done on computers these days. That’s a dramatic change from a few decades ago. Inside education, we haven’t changed in that way; we’re still spending about 80% of the time teaching kids the hand-calculating step of mathematics.
And that’s gonna change in my view. There are so many more parts to mathematics than just doing the calculating. There’s asking the right question. There’s setting the problem up in a mathematical form. There’s doing the calculating, as we’ve discussed, either by hand or on a computer. And then, there’s the final step of taking that result and turning it back to a practical form and making sure it makes sense, verifying it.
If we could focus on these steps outside calculating, we could get so much further. And we can do that with the power of computers doing the calculating. There are great lab of calculi… in fact, one of the reasons that mathematics become so important to the world, so important to economies, is that computers can get us so much further in working out maths problems than we could get by hand. That’s why so many jobs depend on it, so many industries, so many fields.
Those are the key reasons why we need to change to teach what I call computer-based maths. And I think the first country, or region to do that will have a dramatic effect on the outcome of their kids, on how well that economy does… It’s not just about the economy either, I think it’s also about engaging kids in mathematics, in what could be a far more amusing kind of mathematics, where they can see much more real problems, they can go much further, they can get real results.
It’s also about just training people for everyday living. 50 years ago, you could survive in a modern economy, everyday, without really knowing much other than basic arithmetic. Now you can’t, you really got to understand how to calculate your mortgage, which way round to use various kinds of calculations in your everyday work, even if you’re not really a technical person.
Using computers, we can both improve the conceptual understanding of mathematics and its practical application, both at the same time. And that’s a very rare opportunity, I can’t think of any other major subject as been given in recent times.
So, I’m very positive about our ability to improve mathematics education through the world, but we can’t do it if we’re teaching fundamentally the wrong subject. I’ve started computerbasedmath.org to address this, to try and build a new curriculum from the ground up, assuming computers, and it’s on an early stage at the moment, but I’m very hopeful, with all the support we’ve got, an interest, I’m very hopeful that we will manage to make a dramatic improvement to this major, mainstream and exciting subject of mathematics and make it something that everyone wants to study rather than something that everyone would like to avoid.
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