Conrad Wolfram on the Relevance of Math Education

Today’s show is the kickoff to our math theme in Modern Learners community. We’ll be exploring our beliefs about math education. We’ll look at what’s working, what’s not, and what’s possible! Considering the impact that machine learning and AI are having on the world, it’s important we start to consider how these fields will impact what our learners need to know and be able to do. In order to move our math classrooms forward in the next decade, we must consider our current practices and really question if they match our beliefs and serve our learners.

In just a second, I’ll be replaying the podcast episode Bruce Dixon recorded with Conrad Wolfram. But before I play that for you, I want to share the stories of my math education that shape my math identity. Math identity is on of the concepts we’ll explore in MLC. My math identity started to take shape in the first grade when I was the first one to slam down my pencil with thirteen seconds to spare for the mad minute worksheet. Later that day I won “Around the World” twice. I was a math person! That all changed in eighth grade when my math teacher recommended the Algebra A/B track instead of Algebra. I was not a math person. I’ve always been self-determined and a little “sassy by design”, and I was going to stand for that. I’d just work harder in Algebra, but I definitely wasn’t going the down the slow track. Fast forward a couple of years, and I was copying every assignment in my Saxon Algebra II math book. I wasn’t the only one, and the answers to the odds were in the back! I wasn’t a math person.

But why wasn’t I a math person? What were the conditions in the environment that initiated and nurtured those thoughts? I’m also curious about the implication of those thoughts on my adult life…my parenting, my career choices and options, my finances? What opportunities have I missed out on because I’m not a math person? I really want to know what math classrooms around the world are doing to build every learners math identity. Truth be told, we are all math people. It’s time we all work to understand and foster that!

Conrad Wolfram has been advocating for an overhaul to math curriculum for years. He is the founder and CEO of Wolfram/Alfa and Mathamatica. He is particularly interested in how technology and computation can move our lives and economies forward and in turn how that affects education. He believes math in school is almost totally irrelevant from it’s real-world application.

In this conversation with Bruce, Conrad says there are four parts to using math in real life. They are:
1. Define the problem
2. Turn it to symbolic representation if we can
3. Take questions to answer
4 Determine what this means and does it make sense

There is so much to digest after listening to the conversation. Please join us in Modern Learners Community to continue the discourse. Simply click here and sign up or sign in!

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