Re: [unrev-II] Valid contributions to the debate? - Mental

From: Henry van Eyken (
Date: Mon Feb 14 2000 - 21:20:02 PST

From: Henry van Eyken <>

Further in this thread, especially on the subject of traditional arithmetic,
i.e. without calculators, and the views of those who believe strongly in the
teaching of "fundamentals," may I offer the opinion pieces I wrote way-back-when
for the Journal of Chemical Education and the Journal of College Science
Teaching. You'll find them reproduced, following an introduction, here: and the
new cognition

followed by "A flea in the bonnet"
and "Fleabyte fundamentals: Promoting more meaningful learning"

In the latter I argue that (some, much?) thinking is just as algorithmic as a
computer program.

It is thoughts like these that make me so interested in what Dr. Engelbart has
to say about neural thinking teaming up with electronic thinking. Here is a
highly inteligent man who spent thirty-plus years of his life thinking about
these matters right on the new frontier of electronic thinking. That's why I am
so darn frustrated by not being able to properly hear what he is saying. (My
thread: "Am I the only dummy around here?"). More than fifteen years of the
emotional part of my life have gone into this exercise, if not really just about
all my life.


P.S. "A Flea in the Bonnet" is just a bit more than a mere opinion piece. Sorry
about that. H.

Eric Armstrong wrote:

> From: Eric Armstrong <>
> wrote:
> > I have taken the liberty of making a list of 14 articles I did over
> > the last 15 years (but mostly modified recently) and post links to
> > them at
> >
> >
> > They have been written from my perspective as a college teacher with
> > no formal education in computer science. The articles take into
> > account human nature.
> Just finished the first. A *great* read. Well written and
> thought-provoking.
> My major thought:
> I'm not sure that calculators "free" us.
> Someone ran a test with calculators rigged to produce obvious,
> unmissable errors -- orders of magnitude off -- and found that
> college students would rarely question the result. If they did, and
> the calculator produced the same result a 2nd time, they'd go
> with it!
> Like the atrophy of memory from lack of use, the ability to do abstract
> thinking (via symbol manipulation, of which arithmetic is a simple
> manifestation) is also withering away. (Unfortunately, the rote right-
> to-left addition mechanism taught in school is all but useless for
> mental addition. Working from left to right and using various
> algebraic manipulations works a lot better for mental math. (e.g.
> 22 + 97 = (20 + 2) + (100 - 3) = (20 + 100) + 2 - 3 = 120 - 1)
> "Mental math" should be taught in schools, if only as preliminary
> exercise for symbolic logic, algebra, and other symbol-manipulation
> practices.
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