Mathematics Emphasis: Concepts, Investigations, Appropriate Uses of Technology
Literacy in mathematics is not found in memorization of algebraic manipulations a student is not likely to ever use in the real world. That level of algorithmic literacy is expected of those who are going to be our pure mathematicians. This does not mean memorization is bad. Mathematics is a language and our students need to learn to speak it in order to be able to use the power of mathematics in their world of work. Ideas like the order of operations, functions, domain and range and some others are critical in everyday life. This is especially true for simple arithmetic ideas like number facts. Just as a student should know the alphabet by heart, our students should be capable of accomplishing the basic fact collection for each operation in 3 minutes or less. If a student can’t do this, they are not literate. We offer time honored drills to help with this.
Calculators should remove the tedious time-consuming tasks of large or complex arithmetic. We should use these and other devices to make mathematics interesting and to help students discover the concepts we are trying to teach. This author had a real revelation the first time I was using a graphing calculator with the intent of learning the parameter changes on the function y = sin(x). Using this device to graph the parent function and then each of the others such as y= asinx, y=sin(bx), y=sinx + c, etc, resulted in my students knowing the impact of every parameter change in one class period instead of having to use a week’s worth of time doing it by hand. Use of other technologies like probes and sensors to collect data than can be represented as functions changed entirely the interest level in the courses covered.
Science Emphasis: Learning to be a Scientist, Not Just Learning About Science
Clearly in learning to be a scientist we don’t expect students to go through the tedium of replicating the experimentation done over several millennia to know about our universe. Yet, including discovery and teaching the making of a hypothesis, experimentation, documentation, reasonable conclusions as the way we help students learn, we will be creating a whole new cadre of young people who know how to ask questions, design experiments to tests suggested answers, and to determine what results are true.
SATEC takes an aggressive approach in recommending modern technology in all levels of school science because our schools are caught in using equipment and methods in our education labs that have not been used in the real world for over 50 years. We, in some cases, are still caught in the 19th century with our tools and techniques while trying to instruct 21st century students. We can change this, and Vernier Science Education is a world leader in helping schools make the necessary changes.