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September 13, 2012

The next big project: Mental Mathematics

It's a little know fact that computer science is a field that spurs from mathematics rather than information technology. This might explain when I pick up a book about A+ Certification it feels like a bloated watered down version of a For Dummies book, and yet I feel that if I want to earn or renew certification. (Really, you get to take the test all over again every three years! Imagine if colleges made you do that! There'd be riots in the street!) The reason they want you to renew really has less to do about learning new technology and more about making a profit.

However, if there is one thing that can never be taken away from you is your education. Which is why I'm interested in offering some support and advice on an array of mathematical topics in this new project that is meant to promote the use of mental mathematical calculations.

It is a subject I take quite seriously especially since a lot of the technology that we use is too fragile. What really motivated me to take up this project is the fact that during my senior year of college, I was conversing with a first or second year student who mentioned that her brother was looking at colleges, but he couldn't do basic arithmetic without a calculator. Even more disheartening was learning that my high school math club had disbanded. (Hey, there is much advantage to that. You could get an excuse from one class to take an even harder test once a month. So what if you got the answer wrong. You learned something from it later.) One of the biggest shockers while doing this was discovering that some of the teachers at a regional math competition did not understand the concept of double series, which in computer science can be explained quite simply as one for loop inside of another for loop.

var x = new Array(m);	// x has m elements
var y = new Array(n);	// y has n elements

/* some data to put into arrays x and y */

var sum = 0;
for(var i = 1; i <= m; i++){
 for(var j = 1; j <= n; j++){
  sum += x[i] * y[j];
 }
}
A bit of code that explains figure #2 from this page.

It was also some time around my last couple of years of college that I learned about how computers added, subtracted, and multiplied (computers don't divide, they just calculate the inverse of the divisor and multiply by a fraction of a number), as well as other methods to mentally calculate multiplication and division but are rarely taught these days to children as the calculator and the computer have made young generations of teachers let technology show the answer than have students make mistakes and verify their own work let alone teach cursive penmanship.

So I'm thinking over the next few years I work on something bit by bit to provide a comprehensive knowledge of mathematics that should be done mentally or at least written down in a notebook. It's something I've though about for a while especially after proving how Jill.js work by creating some mathematical examples. I still want to figure out how to get Canvas to produce fractals using HTML5 Canvas' ImageData object. It is quite possible.

So I just wanted to make an announcement about this project. I'm thinking of using MathJax instead of jsMath because it doesn't require you to download TeX fonts and it supports MathML and LaTeX. I'm quite comfortable with using LaTeX since Wikipedia (and to that extend MediaWiki) use LaTeX for most of their math codes. I haven't really decided yet.

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