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[OS:N:] handheld calculators and open source, was: Linux in schools (cont'd)

I am reposting this because I never received it from the list manager.
It was probably lost by my ISP the first time. My apologies if you did
already received it instead.

----- Forwarded message from Marco Fioretti <m fioretti inwind it> -----

Subject: Re: [OS:N:] Re: Linux in schools (cont'd)
From: Marco Fioretti <m fioretti inwind it>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 06:29:42 +0100
To: open-source-now-list redhat com
Reply-To: Marco Fioretti <m fioretti inwind it>
User-Agent: Mutt/1.4i
Status: RO

On Mon, Dec 30, 2002 12:56:22 at 12:56:22PM -0500, ekunin (ekunin snet net) wrote:
> Mathematics is a language and we learn language best when we are young. I
This is absolutely true and general. Mother tongue, foreign languages,
drawing, physics...: they are all learned better when young. The
problem, sticking to mathematics, is that there is no necessary relation
between "using decent hand held calculators" and learning (=
*understanding what you do, why, and what is the best way to do it)
mathematics. If you think that the first things naturally and
unavoidably makes the second happen faster, think again.

> think we should stop trying to teach kids long division with pencil and
> paper and give them decent hand held calculators. It wouldn't surprise me
> (and I have absolutely no research or experience to back this up) that in
> learning to use the machines they might be calculus ready by fifth grade.

I can report first hand that many of the 15/17 years old students I
tutored to pay my college were simply unable to do calculus because
they were damn slowly in basic things. They had been given hand held
calculators at the beginning, so they routinely used them to:

	do no-brain stuff like 200+73, or 345.75*100;
	do fractions like ((40/36)*(72/80)) in 20 calculators step
	because unable to *see* at first glance that the result is 1 
        etc, etc..

Try to solve differential equations in that way: you'll get old.
Theoretically good for me, because I could have  read whole newspapers
while they were doing one step and still get paid, but ridiculous.
> Trouble is not many fifth grade teachers can handle calculus. BTW when's the
> last time you added a column of numbers by hand?
I design sub-micron ICs for telecom applications. Everyday I have to
add numbers from 3/4 different HW simulation windows to check things. I am
much faster with pen and paper than my 5/6 years younger co-workers
who always had your "decent hand held calculators" and depend from
them. Often I just do it in my head, which is even faster, and use
this second skill not only in super-high tech tasks, but also to be
sure that the parking lot guy gave me the right change.

One last note: the following statement needs to be applied with
common sense, of course, but "learning arithmetics by hand vs buying
black-box, good looking calculators" is quite similar to "learning IT
by Open Source vs buying shrink-wrapped closed SW". In both cases,
the reasons to chose one path or the other are similar.

		Marco Fioretti

----- End forwarded message -----

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