Avoiding AI-Driven Obsolescence: How Math Is Figure-Out-Able Is Creating Sophisticated Thinkers, Not Mimickers

AUSTIN, TX / ACCESSWIRE / February 14, 2023 / The arrival of advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning programs such as ChatGPT has raised concerns that they could render professions such as writing and teaching obsolete. According to the author, education consultant, and former high school mathematics teacher, Pam Harris, these concerns are quite valid, and teachers could very well be replaced by AI if they are unable to change the way they think and how they teach their students.

"The problem is that people have a perspective of doing math and teaching math that is incorrect and insufficient," states Harris, founder of Math is Figure-out-able, an educational workshop program that trains teachers on how to better teach math to their students.

"We have historically created students that could mimic and regurgitate. We have a perspective that math is a disconnected set of facts, rules and procedures to mimic. But what mathematicians really do is far from mimicking. They use critical thinking, based on mathematical relationships they know, in order to solve problems. The act of mathematizing is like reading and writing - readers read, writers write, and mathematicians mathematize. But what we've been teaching isn't mathematizing. We've been teaching mimicry." continues Harris.

Harris believes that most math teachers perpetuate what she calls "fake math". Contrast this with real math, which Harris says goes beyond mimicking and involves understanding the relationships between facts and concepts. Teachers can teach real math in a way that is naturally intriguing, something AI cannot do.

"I, myself, am a convert", says Harris. "I was a high school math teacher, teaching fake math really well. As I was looking for ways to make my students more interested in math, people were telling me to ‘play around with it.' But I realized: how do you play around with something you're just mimicking? There was literally nothing to play with."

This began to change when Harris's eldest son began talking about the way he was thinking about math. With a child's natural curiosity, he played around with numbers and relationships and made up his own ways to solve problems.

"At first, it was so foreign to me. I've always thought math is a set of rules and formulas and our job is to follow those", states Harris.

Harris became intrigued about how math was taught to students, which led her to investigate the research about teaching math. She recognized the need for students to have powerful numeracy skills from an early age.

"Teaching math is not about using rote memorization to just get answers," stated Harris. "It's really about developing reasoning. And if I'm trying to develop reasoning, then I can't just tell students to get the answers by copying what I did. We need to teach students how to think, not just regurgitate what they've been told. This is not fuzzy math, in fact, really complex mathematics is happening."

According to Harris, this is where human teachers differ from AI programs like ChatGPT, which is a language generator that uses probability to choose the next most logical thing to say based on its training.

"AI can create English sentences, paragraphs, and discussion better than how students can mimic that stuff," stated Harris. "But what AI cannot do is understand."

According to Harris the most important goal of teaching math is to guide students to develop an increasingly complex mind map of mathematical concepts. This will allow students to arrive at the correct answer to any problem. This mindset also extends to other bodies of knowledge outside of math.

"The answer is just a vehicle to form neural connections and create a mind map," stated Harris. "We want multiple neural connections, not only one way to do everything. I want kids to own facts, not as retrieved from rote memory, but as a set of relationships that they can draw on because they actually understand the relationships."

Math is Figure-out-able offers a series of highly acclaimed paid online workshops that explain Harris' philosophy to teachers, builds teachers' own mathematical understanding, and instructs them on how to help students develop mathematical reasoning. Some of these workshops deal with general mathematical thinking and helpful teaching methods, while others delve into more specific topics, such as multiplication, division, proportional reasoning, and linear functions. The online workshops are asynchronous, allowing teachers to learn at their own pace and rewatch segments to solidify new ideas. Harris also conducts in-person keynotes and presentations for teachers, coaches, and school administrators.

"If we teachers think that our job is to create mimickers by teaching students to rote memorize and spit out facts, which a machine can do better, then we've been replaced. But don't panic, because we can help you teach your students how to think and reason mathematically, creating learners that don't just parrot knowledge, but truly understand mathematics", stated Harris.

About Math is Figure-out-able

Math is Figure-out-able is based in Austin, Texas, and helps math educators mentor their students to solve problems like mathematicians without relying on rote memorization. Math is Figure-out-able was started by Pam Harris, a former secondary mathematics teacher and author of several resource books and curricula materials. Harris often lectures at Texas State University, is a K-12 author and mathematics consultant, and a frequent keynote presenter at conferences.

Media Contact

Name: Pam Harris

Email: pam@mathisfigureoutable.com

Twitter: @pwharris

SOURCE: Math is Figure-out-able

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