Mathematics En Masse
So far I've covered a technological and an ideological problem. This one's logistical.
Specifically, in a discipline where one question can have many answers, it's easy to set up a traditional forum discussion where every student's contribution is meaningful and a springboard for further interaction. One student's opinion does not make moot the opinion of anyone else.
With mathematics, even if the question is applied and relevant, quite often there is only one correct answer. So the traditional forum method can fail, since once one student posts the answer, there is no incentive for further discussion.
This can be solved by splitting -- having only individual answers or collaboration in small groups -- but this removes the very thing that makes social technology exciting: collective intelligence on a scale above what is possible with in-person interaction. Imagine, for instance, having a problem not just group-solved by your individual algebra class, but by every algebra class in a school.
There's ways around this, like:
1. Personalized data: Students might figure out the square area of a room in their house. So every student does their calculation on something different, and then statistical methods can be applied to the data as a whole.
2. Required estimates. In a mathematics modeling problem, students try to match real-world data with an equation. While there are "best-fit" equations this can be done by hand, so that there isn't one correct answer.
Unfortunately, neither method fully taps into the power of the group dynamic. The individual contributions don't rebound and augment each other like an open-ended discussion. So I'll ask: what are the best ways to set up a collaborative online assignment in mathematics?
The best solution I can think of is to get students to explain process. The class could essentially write its own textbook with a wiki; the assignment one week might be to finish the online explanation of graphing parabolas, and every student has to pitch in. I have yet to try something like this, so if anyone has, drop a line in the comments.
Jason Dyer, Guest Blogger
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
It's a "canary in the coalmine," said one climate scientist.
- A team of researchers discovered that permafrost in Northern Canada is melting at unusually fast rates.
- This could causes dangerous and costly erosion, and it's likely speeding up climate change because thawing permafrost releases heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.
- This week, Canada's House of Commons declared a national climate emergency.
One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".
- Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
- Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
- A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
Not every part of a satellite burns up in reentry. Considering the growing number of satellites in orbital space, that's a big problem.
- Earth's orbital space is getting more crowded by the day.
- The more satellites and space junk we put into orbit, the greater a risk that there could be a collision.
- Not all materials burn up during reentry; that's why scientists need to stress test satellite parts to ensure that they won't become deadly falling objects.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.