Wolfram Alpha, stopping maths getting in the way of problem solving

In this TED Talk, Conrad Wolfram argues that maths is not equal to calculating. He describes calculating as the chore of maths that gets in the way of problem solving. The excellent Wolfram Alpha (either website or iOS App) enables children to ask questions that elicit specific data or answer complex questions.

Gary Stager, on his blog, describes how a learner was investigating the speed of a car he had made. In Wolfram Alpha he could enter 31 inches per second. The great benefit of Wolfram Alpha is that the maths calculating does not intrude into the investigation or the problem solving. The learner could then see that the speed equated to 1.76 miles per hour or 0.7 x typical walking speed.

Finally, this video shows how a 4th grade teacher in America uses Wolfram Alpha. It does highlight that some of the content is US-centric but it remains a valuable classroom tool. In the context of the SOL classroom of Sugatra Mitra it can help children “find things out”.

Computer does not equal calculating



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