[FoRK] Computational thinking and energy literacy

Bill Stoddard wgstoddard at gmail.com
Mon Dec 21 06:22:13 PST 2009

On 12/21/09 8:49 AM, Jeff Bone wrote:
> Udell occasionally impresses.  Take this one:
> http://blog.jonudell.net/2009/12/16/computational-thinking-and-energy-literacy/ 
> Right on.
> Personally, I think Fermi estimation and related techniques need to be 
> taught right alongside *counting* --- starting in preschool.  And 
> continued aggressively throughout a child's mathematical education.  
> Nothing grounds new knowledge like the ability (and encouragement) to 
> apply it to everyday life.
> Re:  tools:  of course, Mathematica (Alpha or otherwise) isn't the 
> only game on the block.  Google will do some of this for you, though 
> not enough yet.  (Prediction:  in the '10s Google will either build 
> and make available or buy and open-source + host / extend a full 
> symbolic computational math product of some sort, along with beefing 
> itself up on the "computational knowledge engine" front as Alpha 
> matures and demonstrates what's possible.)  But there's a long history 
> of such things, and new tools appearing all the time...  Most folks 
> have forgotten all about the traditional UNIX "units" tool and 
> friends.  Frink has always impressed me, even though it's 
> closed-source (open it up, Alan!  It's been years.  It's time.  Get 
> that bazaar factor going...)  Fortress gets it.  Etc., etc...
> Having dimensioned quantities and dimensional analysis built into a 
> language is a powerful idea.  Using a language with dimensional 
> analysis built in --- just as a kind of adjunct to reasoning about 
> real-world things --- is, as Udell demonstrates, a pretty powerful way 
> of thinking.
> More like this!
Yes!  Complete agree.  Teaching my kids dimensional analysis and 'back 
of the envelope estimation'.


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