Wednesday, March 05, 2014

CS-enabled Algebra

We've enjoyed a rollicking debate on math-teach recently.  I reiterated a long-time position, that high school students deserved math credit for a discrete math sequence of topics we could provide, as an "excuse" to piggy-back the sharing of newer math notations used by various global subcultures, such as Intel and HP.

What do I mean by "newer math notations"? Simply: computer languages.

Many of them (by no means all) use "dot notation" a grammar of noun.verb() and noun.adjective (or call it property, or attribute).  The period or dot is important.  A.b means A has some feature named b, maybe its age or its level of enlightenment.

With dot notation, you've got behaviors responsive to arguments, and you've got persistent state, and no, that's not the only lingo out there, just one of 'em.  A CS-enabled algebra would be friendly to this ethnicity's lingo, among others (not exclusively).

I've suggested our economy in Cascadia, high technology intensive, could benefit from a school system that allowed for these alternative for-math-credit courses.  They'd be elective in the same sense trig and stats have been elective.  Yet three years of math credit is mandatory, in Oregon, for a high school diploma.  You have various ways of adding up to that.  The goal:  make discrete math courses count (some say "digital math" courses -- the labels are not that critical).

Cascadia, if you've not read Wikipedia, is the Pacific Northwest coastal area north and south of Seattle, some say all the way to the Bay Area, some draw a line at Arcata.  It's more a science fictional jurisdiction and one of the "nine nations of North America" popularized by urban legend and some key writers.  Northward, we could reach well into British Columbia, so-called.  These are thought experiments you may indulge in, as a way to review some geography if otherwise bored.  Good exercise. What other nations might you name?

This script was not my solo creation.  On the contrary, I was overlapping with high school computer science teachers anyway, joining the annual programming tournament at Willamette University through Free Geek.  When I presented at OS Bridge, the Software Association of Oregon was in the audience and it was from SAO that I learned of the concrete proposal to wedge in a discrete math course or sequence, geared for high schools.  Teachers from all over the state were encouraged to brainstorm about content of this for-math-credit offering.  We had a day long meeting in Sherwood, a neighborhood south of Portland out toward Wilsonville along I-5.

To sum up, I sometimes cast myself as an unregistered lobbyist, not often seen in Salem, yet definitely with an agenda.  My Oregon Curriculum Network has consistent / illustrative content.  Determining where I'm coming from is not that difficult, per the aforementioned math-teach thread.

If you want to join in the debate, I encourage finding regional colleagues, as the issues we raise tend to manifest in different ways by region.  Having solutions in one area does not automatically imply a translatable result.  There's no one-size-fits-all panacea.