Saturday, July 1, 2017

Computing In Math Class ... A Sad State Of Affairs In 2017 ???

Computing In Math Class
... A Sad State Of Affairs
In 2017 ???
What follows is an excerpt of an email I wrote recently. I was writing to a retired colleague who found he needed to retire as he had little to no support in his work bringing computing into the mathematics classroom. He met with resistance primarily due to excessive administrative adherence to Common Core Standards. Ironically, this all occurred at a high school not far from Silicon Valley! The result of all this administrative fervor was a damping of creativity in general and a diminished use of computing in particular by this great teacher! I found his retiring under said circumstances very alarming as he was trying to do what I am trying to do:
"Wow, sorry to hear that, MrX. I find little support for teaching math with tech in general, not to mention pythonically, as noone really understands what we are trying to do or, even worse, don't care enough to even try to educate themselves.
I remember over 20 years ago how much resistance there was when we were trying to introduce the graphing calculator. Now we can't get rid of graphing calculators for something better. Graphing calculators have become the end all and be all of computing in the mathematics classroom, I'm afraid. If I even mention improving the state of computing in math class, I always get a comment about how many graphing calculators we have. Most teachers just pay lip service to using tech and coding in class.
It's ironic just how little the current generation of mathematics teachers cares about coding and algorithmic thinking in the current atmosphere of "the hour of code" push to get computer science into the K-12 curriculum in every school in every state. I have supported the hour of code every year on Grace Hopper's birthday to recruit for AP CompSci. However, I'm worried that the hour of code is pushing the curriculum down people's throats that may not really be ready to teach it. Maybe the powers that be want to water down the discipline in order to get it into schools at any cost even for students of way too young an age?
I am also of retirement age but I refuse to be pushed out! I feel as if I've only just gotten started. I don't know how much longer I can plod on myself but I'll try a year or 2 more I think. I don't get a lot of support but I don't get active abuse. It's strange, when I started teaching, most math departments in my area (Long Island) had at least an intro computing course called "Computer Math" and some even had AP CompSci. I have taught said intro course for over 30 years and the AP course for nearly as long. So I'm sort of tolerated as that crazy mad scientist over there in the corner when I try to bring computing into the math classroom.
It's strange how over the years less and less math teachers have any interest or background in computing. I have trained a few teachers over the years to take over my intro course but they invariably get snatched up by other schools offering better pay and work conditions....
I started teaching High School in 1984. At that time there were 3 or 4 other teachers interested in computing in my dept. I wanted to teach at my current school precisely because the chairman installed his own minicomputer for said curriculum (GIMIX, a Unix knock off complete with dumb terminals, text consoles, BASIC, Pascal and even a text based Adventure game way before Linux was around). So I thought the future of computing in the math dept was bright. I was even encouraged to design and install the first PC Lab/Classroom upgrade. However, less and less teachers, as well as less and less students, showed any interest in pursuing such a course of study.
So, to conclude my rant, I'll say this: I feel your pain but I'm gonna try to carry on 1 year at a time. Next year I'll be adding a bit of Processing to my AP Computer Science curriculum to spice it up a bit. I'll also be using SAGE a bit more in my preCalculus courses. Unfortunately, I don't think I can do that with my AP Calculus class as these students need to be proficient in the use of Graphing Calculators when they take the AP Exam."

Generally Speaking,

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