A New Kind of Math…

Started two or three days ago, while preparing for a presentation.

Highest rated datasets on Data.Gov

This CogDog Blog (Song Lyrics Data) caught my attention this morning.  Initially it was the title along with my continuing hunger for a new guitar and desire to work up a new song list.  I continue to be frustrated by my son’s ability to learn a song in hours (with the help of YouTube) that use to take me days of plucking it out by ear and untold abuse of the record needle.

But the first part of Levine’s article hit on something that I’ve been thinking about and talking about for a long time — the implications of digital content on us and what (and how) children learn.  I’ll be talking about it today (Monday) with educators in Southeast Missouri — that we need to expand our notions of what arithmetic means in an increasingly digital information environment.  When I was growing up, the only information that I was taught to process was number, on paper, in math class.  Although I was taught a little writing, text was for reading.  Images were for looking at.  Audio was for listening to and video was for watching.  What’s changed is that virtually all information today is based on numbers.  Text, images, sound, video — it’s all made out of numbers.

I was taught arithmetic so that I would have the skills to add-value by processing the numbers that described my environment.  This is no less critical today than it was in the 1950s and ’60s.  But today, it has become just as critical to be able to process the numbers embedded in our information environment.  Students need to learn and to become practiced information artisans, able to work the numbers that describe our information environment — so that they can add value to that environment.

Alan mentions a perfect example.  The Obama Administration and the nations first CIO, Vivek Kundra have launched Data.gov, a website that will increase the

..ability of the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government. (( United States. The White House. About. Washington: USA.Gov, 2009. Web. . ))

According to Kundra, in this WIRED inteview, they want…

..the American people to be able to slice and dice and cube it (the data) and create new applications and at the same time, help the U.S. Government find the innovative path, being able to spot patterns and help us solve some of the toughest problems this country faces. ((Van Buskirk, Eliot. “Vivek Kundra, America’s CIO, Details Plans to Let Us Mash Government Data.” EPICENTER 15 Jun 2009 Web.27 Jul 2009. <http://xrl.in/2szz>. ))

Math should not be just about learning the skills to calculate numbers on a piece of paper, but the ability to WORK the numbers that are embedded in our entire physical and information environments.

Work the numbers!

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.