## Archive for the ‘Today I want to be’ Category

## Where’s the Math in Computer Science?

Today’s guest blogger is Kenrick Mock, Associate Professor of Computer Science from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Kenrick writes a blog called Teaching, Technology, and Learning.

As a computer science instructor sometimes a student will ask me why math is required for a CS degree. At the University if Alaska Anchorage we require Calc I, Calc II, and discrete math for all of our Bachelor of Science CS majors. I think one of the reasons for this question is that there really isn’t much direct math content in the introductory CS courses aside from the occasional algebraic equation and an understanding of exponents and logarithms for the data structures course. Nevertheless, I think one of the misconceptions that students have is they equate **computer programming** with **computer science**. It is possible to be an excellent programmer with only basic math skills (one example is the Information Systems degree) but computer science is more concerned with the **science **behind the construction of hardware and software systems. This scientific foundation is based on mathematics. With this in mind, I’ve outlined below several ways that math is important to a budding computer scientist as he or she works their way through a CS degree.

**1. Mathematical Maturity and Problem Solving**

Solving this problem requires more than just understanding what a loop does and how to write if-then-else statements. The student must know how to break this problem up into appropriate algorithmic steps so that a program can be written to solve each step. This type of problem solving is similar to algebraic word problems given in math classes, and some CS education researchers have suggested that students that struggle with planning and problem solving in math also struggle in CS classes. More directly related to programming, many programming languages are based on functions, a concept similar to mathematical functions. Similarly, the concept of variables and variable manipulation is also closely related to mathematical variables.

**2. Computer Hardware and Low-Level Software**

**3. Design and Analysis of Algorithms**

*N*items using the Selection Sort algorithm requires a number of steps proportional to

*N*

*2*but if the Heapsort algorithm is used then the number of steps required is proportional to

*N*Log*

*2*

*(N)*. This is referred to as the

*runtime*of the algorithm. With a large list of items the difference is significant; Heapsort will run much faster. While an understanding of exponents and logarithms is all that is necessary to get the big picture, determining the runtime requires an understanding of recursion and the ability to solve summations. Here’s a sample summation that describes the runtime of one algorithm:

*n*steps.

**4. Computer Theory**

**5. Elective Specializations**

**6. Computer Graphics**

**7. Conclusion**

**Possibly Related Posts:**

- Today I want to be a Chemist (3)
- Today I want to be a phyicist
- Today I want to be a Biologist (II)
- Today I want to be an Astronomer…
- Today I want to be a Chemist (2)

## Today I want to be a Chemist (3)

As I was watching videos on YouTube about the Large Hadron Collider, this series of videos called **The Periodic Table of Videos** caught my attention. I am sharing the video of Antimony with you (Antimony is the name of my avatar in Second Life) here:

What would the math equivalent of the periodic table be? We have sets of numbers, theorems, functions, and rules, but what interesting, unifying element (note the pun) could you build a set of videos around?

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- Where’s the Math in Computer Science?
- Today I want to be a phyicist
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- Today I want to be an Astronomer…
- Today I want to be a Chemist (2)

## Today I want to be a phyicist

Just to use this video on the first day of class!

**Possibly Related Posts:**

- Where’s the Math in Computer Science?
- Today I want to be a Chemist (3)
- Today I want to be a Biologist (II)
- Today I want to be an Astronomer…
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## Today I want to be a Biologist (II)

If only to use this quirky video on Protein Syntheses from the 70s, complete with interpretive dancing, music, poetry, and poofs of smoke!

Of course, if you never read the original “Today I want to be a biologist…” that video is stunning, find it here.

**Possibly Related Posts:**

- Where’s the Math in Computer Science?
- Today I want to be a Chemist (3)
- Today I want to be a phyicist
- Today I want to be an Astronomer…
- Today I want to be a Chemist (2)

## Today I want to be an Astronomer…

What’s the likelihood of stumbling across two kickin’ applications on astronomy in one day? Apparently, pretty good.

The first application I saw was released on TED Talks this week – a program called Worldwide Telescope – and an application by Microsoft (if you can believe that). The application must run on the same software platform as Photosynth (Seadragon). Worldwide Telescope will eventually be housed on the Internet at http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/ (not much there to see yet).

The second application is called Google Sky (launched today). This application has the advantage of being “live” right now. So you can go play immediately, zooming and panning through the sky in the same way you navitage in Google Maps.

If you haven’t seen Photosynth yet (previewed to a stunned audience last at TED last year), it’s an amazing application of trigonomety, the Internet, and computing power (view the TED Talk on Photosynth here and go to the Photosynth website here where you can try out a “preview” of Photosynth).

Apparently, I now have a feature series (like Technology Reviews) called “Today I want to be a …” (I figure four blog posts by the same title is a series). The previous posts in the series are:

I know that Pi-Day is tomorrow, and I should be excited to be celebrating a math holiday, but honestly I feel a little down. Where are the cool “explorer-style” applications for mathematics? Is the TI N-Spire supposed to do it for me when I’m comparing it to stuff like **this**? This is exactly the kind of feeling that led me to get three degrees as an undergraduate (*math, chemistry, and biology … thanks for asking*). Math, even with the cool applications that we have available to us today, is simply not as engaging at the lower levels as the sciences. I doubt very much that students go to Wolfram Demonstrations to “explore” concepts. Nobody logs in to MyMathLab, WebAssign or WebWorks just to “play” with the mathematics they are learning.

- Maybe Wolfram can create an interactive galaxy of Wolfram Demonstrations (similar to Jonathan Harris’ Universe), where the “constellations” are mapped out through similar topics connecting the WDs or a TED-style interface for browsing? Only let’s just make all the demos “live” and not hidden behind a download and player.
- Maybe Apple can make a touch screen calculator capable of graphing in COLOR with easy zoom and pan options at the touch of a finger and functionality for exploration where every option isn’t buried under a series of 5 menus (hey – if they can put EA’s game Spore on that phone, it’s certainly not out of reach).
- Maybe the monotony of algebra and precalculus can be absorbed by an online virtual world where students learn through puzzles and concept-oriented games (sorry DimensionM – I’ve played you, and you’re just not ready for the College crowd – too much game, not enough content).
- Maybe math teachers should act as roving content instructors – showing up at science, business, and computer classes to conduct “just in time” math teaching and working with other instructors to seamlessly integrate content into the rest of the curriculum.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m tired of longing for the great educational tools available in other fields. If we all push together, maybe by NEXT pi day, I’ll have something more exciting than pi to be excited about! All together now … let’s push *our* way into the 21st century with the power of Web 2.0.

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## Today I want to be a Chemist (2)

Anything that illicits me saying, out loud, “NO WAY!!!” is, in my opinion, worth posting here. And today is that day for chemistry. You may recall that I do occasionally deviate into cool chem and cool bio posts.

Without further adieu… here is a chemistry video from second life that can build a 3-D molecular model from the InChIKey code.

The video is by Hiro Sheridan. His site, containing flickr photos are worth a look as they show the Chemistry SN island in 2nd Life … complete with a presentation stage including deck chairs, wouldn’t this be a nice way to attend math talks… hmm… maybe if I am granted a sabbatical I’ll get to work on a Math island – on second thought, maybe MAA, AMS, or AMATYC will do it for us. Any takers?

I particularly liked the photos of the chemist with goggles (goggles up or goggles down?)

I hope Hiro doesn’t mind my reposting of gifs of a few of these images, as I am sending you to his flickr site too to view the whole set (there is more than one page).

This week I just desperately feel like I NEED MORE TIME!!! I will never catch up with technology … does anyone else feel this way? Are we even remotely training/encouraging faculty in higher ed to “deal” with this new online/Web 2.0 environment? Do the majority of faculty (and students) even realize this stuff is out there? It’s like we’re in a science fiction world but the majority of the population doesn’t know it yet.

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- Math about the Electoral College
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## Today I want to be a Chemist…

Okay, okay, I know… this is a blog for **math **and technology. But occasionally I have to stray just a little. I do have a degree in Chemistry too… so I am allowed!

This is totally the coolest interactive periodic table website I have ever seen! And it was created with Mathematica (believe it or not).

Surely you could use the data provided with each element for some kind of math problem? Or you could show your students the appropriate chemical element if it shows up in a word problem.

P.S. I found this site on the Wolfram Blog… which you might want to check out yourself!

**Possibly Related Posts:**

- Math Technology to Engage, Delight, and Excite
- Where’s the Math in Computer Science?
- Today I want to be a Chemist (3)
- Today I want to be a phyicist
- Top 10 Open Source Tools for Math

## Today I want to be a Biologist…

Wait… technically I am a biologist (at least by one degree)…

Follow this link to watch the movie and read about the collaboration between Harvard University and XVIVO that created the movie.

Interested in seeing more? Poke around the XVIVO websiteand you’ll see more of their biology animations. (Click on Animation)

Also, if you suddenly find that you want to understand some of the biology that you see in the video, watch the segment on ABC News about parts of the movie.

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- Math about the Electoral College
- A reason to calculate the vertex
- Nature by Numbers
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- My Interview at Wolfram Alpha HomeworkDay