Mate Wierdl is a professor of mathematical sciences at the University of Memphis and a frequent commenter on the blog.



He writes:



“In math education, there’s not a single thing computers do that is necessary for a great math class. Not one. Occasional calculations? A $5 calculator does everything needed, and even at the university, a $30 Casio can even do symbolic calculations so it does more than needed. But of course, all calculations can be done by hand.


“There’s a free software called Sagemath. It does all possible math and statistics (and chemistry, etc) related calculations, visualizations. It can be used online or can be installed on any computer. At the university, I show it to the kids where it can be accessed. That’s all they need. It’s simple to use, and it has a freely available user guide. At home or library or computer lab, kids can use it as much as they want to. They can use it to check the solutions to all their home work, or they can do experiments with it.


“But whatever Sagemath can do has nothing to do with great math teaching. Great teaching is done by great teachers, so there is no choice between tablets and teachers when it comes to students’ need.


“If teachers’ pay doesn’t keep up with inflation, the quality of teaching will decline. If you don’t use computers in classes, quality of teaching doesn’t decline.


“So that’s where my priorities are: in great teaching. I believe, that’s very much in the interest of students, isn’t it?


“Before making yet more assumptions about my motives or state of mind, also consider the fact that I maintain computers, email and web servers, various free software, and each year I evaluate the newest software offerings that are supposed to help teachers in their work.


“Without exception, they are designed to take over a teachers’ job by distorting what math education is supposed to be. Kids, and that includes my daughter in 10th grade and my college freshman son, learn to press buttons, do calculations, enter solutions online with cumbersome interfaces instead of learning real math—math that would be useful and interesting for them.


“My daughter comes home every day and demands me to explain what she really learned in math because in class she just “learned which buttons to push to get the answers.”


“This pragmatic push to perceive math as a subject to get correct answers via calculations truly destroys math education.”