My favourite quote from the Computer Based Math summit

I just remembered this quote from a participant at the Computer Based Math summit, and it is one of my favourite from the day.

"Math is not done on paper or by a computer. Math is done by the brain."

I wish I knew the name of the gentleman who said it. I believe he introduced himself as a Professor of Mathematics. If anyone knows, please let me know.



  • I ended up finding the TED video by Conrad Wolfram where he asserts that math teaching needs to take a leap and use computers for the computational aspect of math. Perhaps you have addressed this topic in prior posts but I found it intriguing from a school board member perspective. I had never considered the impact of technology on how can/should teach a subject. Do you believe there are benefits to transferring computational work of math to computers and letting teachers and students focus on the three others areas identified by Wolfram for math teaching?

  • David Wees wrote:

    I wouldn’t recommend that every single algorithm done by the computer, as some of them have clear value to learning the process by hand for understanding the mathematics, however I do think there are benefits to the computational layer being done by a computer.

    First, as the quote suggests, mathematics is done by the brain, and if we want kids to learn the whole process of doing mathematics, they need time to do it. They need to engage their brain more. Students spend almost all of their time learning how to do these algorithms, and very little time learning how to piece together information, and to develop new algorithms for solving problems. This isn’t true in every classroom as I know there are teachers out there that have found a better balance between learning computations and learning reasons to know how to do those computations, but unfortunately, I suspect that in most classrooms, kids learn a series of algorithms without a lot of reason behind why those algorithms are at all useful or interesting.

    As Conrad Wolfram points out, there is much more to doing mathematics than just the computations themselves. In fact, some of the most interesting mathematics happens when one does not know the algorithm to solving a problem. How often do students get problems for which there is no known algorithm or sequence of steps to follow?

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