By Stephanie Russo
A University of Western Australia maths lecturer says that high school and university maths curriculums are behind the times and that smartphones and tablets should replace calculators in classrooms.
Dr Paul Castle, 29, has been working as a tutor since 2010 and teaches introductory maths at UWA.
He says he has noticed that Year 12 students and first year university students spend a great deal of time on the five methods of solving integrals, when in the real world, computers or even online apps always handle this task.
He says that although many might complain, it’s now time to let the real world into the classroom, and update the graphics calculators to modern devices which can access sophisticated online technology such as WolframAlpha.com.
“Those calculators are so expensive and so clunky. It’s bigger than a phone, and it does less than a phone,” he says.
“The only reason to keep using the calculators is so they can do that stuff in the exam, because you don’t want them to have the phone. But there must be a better way … in the exam they could just hand out phones [or devices] that are locked and they can only do WolframAlpha.”
Dr Castle believes it’s still important to know what maths your device is doing and why, but that endlessly repeating the details isn’t helpful, or a good way to engage students.
Instead, he prefers to give his students an overview.
“What I say [to my students] is ‘there’s this technique and this technique and this technique, don’t worry about practising them too much. But these things exist and using them you can solve … any partial fraction that you see.’”
“I feel like it’s more important for them to know what can be done and what can’t, what computers are doing in the background, and what it means for all that to happen.”
The Department of Education WA and the School Curriculum Standards Authority have been contacted for comment.
Click below to hear more on why we need to bring tech into the maths class and how phones can help.