• The Math(s) Fix

  • An Education Blueprint for the AI Age
  • By: Conrad Wolfram
  • Narrated by: Conrad Wolfram
  • Length: 8 hrs and 38 mins
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Why are we all taught math for years of our lives? Does it really empower everyone? Or does it fail most and disenfranchise many? Is it crucial for the AI age or an obsolete rite of passage?

The Math(s) Fix: An Education Blueprint for the AI Age is a groundbreaking book that exposes why math education is in crisis worldwide and how the only fix is a fundamentally new mainstream subject. It argues that today's math education is not working to elevate society with modern computation, data science, and AI. Instead, students are subjugated to compete with what computers do best and lose.

This is the only book to explain why being bad at math may be as much the subject's fault as the learners: how a stuck educational ecosystem has students, parents, teachers, schools, employers, and policymakers running in the wrong direction to catch up with real-world requirements. But it goes further, too, for the first time setting out a completely alternative vision for a core computational school subject to fix the problem and seed more general reformation of education for the AI age.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Wolfram Media (P)2021 Wolfram Media

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A bold but inevitable plan

In high school, back in the 1980's, I took a calculus test. One of the problems was to calculate the derivative of x^6 + 5 x^5 + 7 x^2 -7 the long way. Filled up three pages. In one of the lines of work I missed writing an exponent, but that mistake was just on one line, it didn't carry through. Still, the teacher marked the whole problem wrong. Since there were only three questions on the test, that meant I'd failed the test. Which meant I failed calculus. I appealed and the test got upgraded to an A. "But you might need to use the long way some day." That was 40 years ago, and not once since then have I needed that tedious exercise. Surprisingly, I became a mathematician, but not because of high school. I'd read the works of Martin Gardner and knew the fun, useful, non-tedious side of math.
Another epiphany came in college with a course of Mathematical Modeling. We were given real problems that needed solution, along with hints for which branches of math might be useful. A lot of the math I'd learned was, for the first time, useful for something. The professor noticed all of the small class seemed stunned when he hand-waved to differential equations to finish up a problem. "Why does everyone look astonished? That's why these are useful." That mathematical modeling course hit on twenty different branches of mathematics and computing. Suddenly, many previous courses were useful. "For this, look up Bayes theorem". None of us had taken statistics, but we could look it up and use it as a tool.

The Math(s) Fix aims to make math education more useful and less tedious, much of the solution involving computers. He also talks about the types of resistance from the existing math education system, and why each of their arguments is incorrect. For children of wealthy or motivated parents, many of these techniques are already applied. They learn programming early. Also, anyone alive today has 1000000000000 times the computing power of someone in the 1950's. They can factor 7^44 - 2 in a second. The kids introduced to math as a useful tool early are vastly ahead of kids introduced to math as a tedious exercise, because they've learned how to harness a trillion times more power.

For trigonometry class, I spent months using trigonometry tables that I haven't used since. Chapter 7 talks about trigonometry as a core concept, with the classic SOHCAHTOA diagram. With less time going into tables, an educator can go into more functions, properties and core concepts.

An early version of this audiobook discussed diagrams but did not include a download for them. I contacted the author and he worked immediately to fix that. The download is now available.

In many ways, this book was music to my ears. I've been working to make math more interesting for people for most of my life, and I understand how useful computers can be. These techniques that the author details work. They are already used for high-income families. Self-motivated students also benefit from these techniques. I was one just by reading Martin Gardner's books. I knew math had a fun side and I knew about computers solving problems when I was 10, in 1973. Just knowing these items outside of the curriculum was enough to get me through the years of tedious exercises without developing a hatred for math itself.

The author turns out to be an excellent narrator. Try out the sample.

Most of my audio reading is science fiction. This is one of those books that I hope comes true.

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profound and urgent

Conrad reveals what I think is his life’s purpose through the words in this book. For a man who built his professional life on math automation to argue that ‘creating human calculators’ should not be a goal of today’s education is profound. The opportunity to move to critical, computational thinking is so needed today. Thanks Conrad for putting to a well articulated argument what I always felt during my formal education. I hope others will read/listen to this book and advocate for the change we need — so a broader range of our community can team effectively with machines/computers/AI’s in the future.

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A much-need fix for math(s) education!

This book, read by the author Conrad Wolfram, does a fantastic job in detailing how math (or maths, depending upon from which side of the Atlantic you hail) eduction has gotten to where it is today - largely broken, and serving no one effectively - and what the problem actually is, then lays out a viable plan for moving forward.

The text: The author nicely sums up the problem early on when he states that students do most of the computation in an education setting, while computers do most (if not all) of the computation in real-world settings, and this is the crux of the problem. Educators focus almost solely on the rote memorization of "math facts" and spend very little time teaching and encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The author goes on to explain, clearly and with well-placed real-world examples, how to go about fixing this dichotomy of "educational math" vs. "real-world math" in terms that are easy to understand (but more difficult to implement).

The performance: The author, in reading his own text, brings a sense of gravitas and authority to this recording. Mr. Wolfram is obviously a gifted and experienced public speaker; his delivery is captivating and interesting without being distracting. It is wonderful to hear the arguments laid out and explained in his own words, with his own voice.

Overall: I highly recommend this audiobook to anyone who has any sort of vested interest in computational mathematics, which includes everyone on this planet.