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Teacher: Mrs.Calhoun Hari Rau-Murthy Computer Based Mathematics - Preparing the Next Generation for a Global Economy Traditionally, mathematics is taught through memorization of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This rote process stretches through six years of early childhood education. Elementary school mathematics is focused on brute force; the ability to recite numbers is paramount.(Wolfram 2012). Recently, a new school of thought has emerged: computer based math (CBM). With it, the focus shifts from memorization and computation to logic. Children are exposed to advanced concepts at an earlier age, giving them time to learn more math in the classroom setting. CBMs standard bearer Conrad Wolfram argues, I believe that correctly using computers is the silver bullet for making math education work. Removing the barriers of memorization allows students to expand their minds. Calculus, for example, was previously reserved for individuals able to handle the complex calculations. With the computational barrier removed by computers, young minds can focus on the theories. One does not need six years of rote memorization to understand that if you continue to add sides to a polygon, it eventually becomes a circle. This rudimentary understanding of differential equations can fuel analytical exploration at an earlier age. (Wolfram 2012) Schools across the nation should adopt computer based math to allow their students to have a competitive chance in todays programming based world. Moving away from rote memorization to CBM in elementary school will give students classroom time with programming, rather than having programming be the focus only for college students.

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Implementation will be the biggest barrier to CBM, but the cost is worth the prize: taking full advantage of technology at the earliest age. CBM allows more classroom time for the development of complex ideas. Consider a physics class where projectile motion is being discussed(Drag Effects 2012). The traditional class is bogged down with finding solutions to an idealistic problem - finding the motion in a vacuum with a constant gravitational field. Difficulties arising from hand calculation make it difficult and even impossible to extend the solution to a more general case. The CBM class would be well versed in numerical methods, and would be able to formulate the general differential equations, find the conditions under which solutions hold, and program a scheme to numerically integrate the equations. This class would tackle problems closer to those experienced in real life: projectile motion accounting for air resistance, for example. Programming thus frees students from computation, allowing them to attack intrinsically harder problems. The role of math in both the applied and pure sense has shifted. Todays opportunities require a strong knowledge of programming. Recent advances in biology, chemistry and physics are completely centered on computer based mathematics. Mathematical modeling provides a powerful tool for each of these fields. Quantum chemistry has changed because computers take away the need for approximation methods that subsumed the field 20 years ago, shifting the focus to a theoretical one(Levine 2004). Genetics has changed from punnett squares to the ability to look at the entire genome, a feat made possible only because of the advent of computer based mthematics(Collins 1998). Pure mathematics itself has been affected; perturbation theory is an important subject for mathematicians that has sprung up from the large number of

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computations(Cox 1992). Todays world is not the world in which rote learning was so crucial. CBM is necessary to keep the US competitive in research and in the job market. While CBM has advantages, there are concerns as well. Without the initial memorization of basic arithmetic functions, there is a concern that children will never learn the fundamentals of mathematics. CBM may also close the door on discoveries that can be made only without a computer. Additionally, such a program may not be feasible given the need for nationwide implementation. A possible side effect of CBM is missing out on the fundamentals of mathematics surface learning. Without the fundamentals of mathematics, theories cannot be challenged. If Einstein and Ernst Mach had not had a strong grasp of fundamentals, they would not have been able to challenge such subtle aspects as the notion of length and bounded variation. This lead to the theory of relativity. This demonstrates the crucial importance of fundamentals in mathematics to the growth of the field. Major discoveries are not made if breakthroughs are not made in basics. Fundamentals are also crucial to practical tasks such as approximation(Wolfram-Closing Remarks 2012). A computer is not always the fastest route to an answer, and may not be easily accessible. Simple everyday activities like calculating the tip on a bill, setting aside the correct amount of time for a task, or estimating the hours remaining until a phone dies are all done faster mentally than by a computer(Wolfram-TED 2012). Until CBM is tested in the classroom setting and a clear curriculum is set forth, one cannot be certain that students taught with CBM will be adept in performing mental math. Certain fundamentals cannot be replaced through working in a computer based environment(Wolfram 2012- Closing Remarks). Computer based/assisted proofs are based on

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reductio ad absurdum by exhaustion: that is through taking a tree of possibilities resulting from a purposely made incorrect assumption, rejecting each of the possibilities and coming out with an alternative that has to be the truth by definition. In order for the proof to be rigorous, the boundary value conditions of the trees must be known. These are questions that can only be answered through the mathematics of fundamentals - Analysis. Thus computer assisted proof does not take away the need for mathematical analysis and fundamentals. In fact, in a technology abetted era where numerical integration and computer algebra systems(mathematica) take away the virtue in the actual analytical solutions to such problems as partial differential equations, the much greater issue is on finding the boundary value conditions under which solutions hold, when solutions make sense, and when stronger claims can be made on solutions(Shatah 2012)- all very important analysis problems. In many senses, the need for analysis is made even greater in relation to its role in previous years and to other subjects. There are many barriers that prevent CBM from being implemented in todays education system. Radical ideas cannot be tested out based on old ideology. CBM necessitates the retraining of teachers to ensure mastery in programming and understanding of the paradigm shift. Test questions will need to be remodeled so that the difficulty does not lie in computation but rather in analysis. This difficulty extends beyond the classroom to standardized tests. If CBM is to be truly implemented in todays classrooms, a complete overhaul of the educational system is required. This is unlikely with todays American bureaucracy. However, one could envision implementation in countries without a current mathematics curriculum (Wolfram 2012- Closing Remarks). Another concern is that mathematical elegance is lost in computer assisted proof, a necessary element of CBM. Solving a problem for an infinite number of cases with a finite

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number of iterations of an algorithm is one of the biggest accomplishments of human society over the past 30 years leaving barely any room for mathematical elegance. Because of the infinite number of cases, computer assisted/CBM proofs(Four Color Theorem 2012) are exclusively reductio ad absurdum. The problem with reductio ad absurdum is that the insight that one would get in other methods that would then spur on more discoveries is not obtained(Rudin 1976). All that reductio ad absurdum requires is knowledge of all the possibilities and whether there is enough information given in order to reach a conclusion. The property of each specific possibility that made it possible to prove the conclusion is not learned. Conversely, a successful completion of proof through reductio ad absurdum, which includes CBM, reveals connection among seemingly unrelated concepts, thereby creating new fields of study(Rudin 1976). Computer assisted proofs and CBM stand to both detract from and add to mathematics. There are problems of elegance and future applicability with proofs that can be executed via CBM. The bigger pressing problem is that even when theorems are true, the existence of a reductio ad absurdum proof is not guaranteed. In fact, Godels incompleteness theorem(Godel 1992) guarantees that there are infinitely many proofs that can not be completed reductio ad absurdum, let alone finding elegant solutions to the ones that exist. Due to limitations of transistor size originating from the size of the atom that are starting to be realized, one can not count on Moores law stating that the transistors on integrated circuits double every 18 months. This suggests that there are many proofs that cannot be carried out via brute force. One such example is the Poincare recurrence theorem(Marwan 2007) stating that the measure of the set of all x in a set A that is a subset of X, such that a measure preserving transformation T applied n>N times is a subset of the set X-A, is zero. The proof of this theorem then in turn guarantees a

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trajectory of a dynamical system coming within a certain neighborhood(i.e. a trajectory repeating itself) happens almost surely(that is, with probability of one.) However, since many systems such as the state of atmosphere of the earth would take 20 orders of magnitude longer than the age of the universe to recur, a brute force algorithm, or even an algorithm with its base in contradiction, would not be able to prove the theorem. Therefore much of the same artifice employed in a traditional proof is still required in order for a rigorous proof to be complete. CBM is important step to implement in bringing technology to the classroom in a manner not only preserving the logical thought processes but even enhancing and restructure the curriculum. The wide applicability of learning material earlier through programming based education rather than education focused on the arcane methods of arithmetic will allow a larger number of interested students to learn more about the axioms at the heart of mathematics. Despite the many pitfalls of CBM, it is crucial that it is implemented in elementary classrooms across the nation. Computer based mathematics is the only answer to a computer based society.