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Thursday, July 10 - 8:32amSanction this postReply
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One of the many engineers over on the Galt's Gulch Online message board of the Atlas Shrugged movie producers created a topic on Calculators. http://www.galtsgulchonline.com/posts/aa66122/calculator-stories

 

Others here in RoR will find them amusing, perhaps even insightful. No doubt, you have some of your own.

 

This was my favorite there:

Posted by  $  iroseland 12 hours, 44 minutes ago

 

I had a first gen ti-82 that we were required to have by the math department.. I was in computer engineering.. So, like most of my actual classmates I saw the math credits as a thing to be endured. It didn't take long to get decent at programming the 82. So, I programmed it to handle a pile of common problems. This was like hitting the turbo button on my finals. I was done way ahead of everyone, and walked it up front to get the grade on the spot. The TA graded me, then followed me out into the hall to ask some questions. First he was mystified by how fast I got through the exam and was annoyed by how little work I was showing.. So, I explained that I had my calculator programmed to handle the annoying stuff. He then suggested that it was not fair that I had programs doing the work... At which point I informed him that forcing a CE guy to buy a programmable calculator and then not expect it to be programmed was in fact crazy talk.

 

Read more at http://www.galtsgulchonline.com/posts/aa66122/calculator-stories~4b2fajfn7vflpgpmrdznaixtzq#7uV0CfbSguK4vVU4.99



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Thursday, July 10 - 8:57amSanction this postReply
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I took an online graduate course in advanced engineering mathematics last fall.  The instructor said I could use my TI-Nspire CAS (Computer Algebra System) graphing calculator.  Here is the e-mail dialogue I exchanged with her after she dinged me on the second of three examinations for omitting work steps.

 

Me: "My graphing calculator performed the operations that appeared mysterious in Exam 2 so I am wondering if I can recover any points with that clarification."

 

Her: "I suspected this, but wasn't sure.  I didn't really know that your calculator could find residues.  By using it to find residues and simplify the expression, you circumvented almost all of the hard parts of the problem.  There is definitely value in knowing how to use the tools at your disposal to solve problems, but throughout this section of the material the intention was really for you to be practicing these complex calculations so I won't give you full credit for the pieces where the calculator did the majority of the work."

 

Me: "I meant that I entered the formula from the worksheet and the variable values and the calculator ran the numbers for me, not that it had the function built into its firmware."

 

Her: "After thinking more about it, I still feel that you didn't show me enough of your thought process or what parts of the problem you did for me to give you full credit for the problem.  I'm sorry, but make sure you write more down in the future so that I can see what you're doing."

 

After this I made sure I stated clearly in writing on the final examination where and how I used the graphing calculator!

 

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 7/10, 9:05am)



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Thursday, July 10 - 11:17amSanction this postReply
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That's wrong to deny credit for work done by a computer/calculator.  It is ex post facto if they haven't made the rules clear in advance.  If they ask for an answer, then they shouldn't come along afterwards and also ask for some newly specified explanation of thought processes leading up to the answer.  I have no problem with a question, or a rule, that states you must explain the steps involved, or principles used.  But not after the fact.  And the use of the proper tools is itself a valuable thing for those about to enter the real world where they will use those tools.  Testing should encourage and measure competency in tool using as well.

 

There is a kind of arbitrary authoritarianism that exists in too many academic settings that has the effect of putting students in the position of the child and the teachers as the parents - not a good approach for encouraging independent, critical thinking and the growth into mature adults. 

 

In the case of the fellow who wrote his own programs for the calculator, anyone who has done any programming knows that being able to write a working program of that sort requires a better understanding of the particular problem solving process than most the instructors possess.



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Thursday, July 10 - 8:20pmSanction this postReply
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Yes, Luke, it is pretty clear from your story that the professor just dug in her heels after you took her by surprise, even after you said that you actually put in the formula, rather than just pressing a button.  In 2006, I had a class in symbolic logic (required by the community college curriculum in criminal justice... do not ask me why...).  Much of our homework consisted of programming a little finite state machine with "Volga Dot Com" book orders. (NOT Mystery AND Male_Author).  We also had other logic problems. I used the FSM to do those.  The thing was, of course, that you just don't take the first output; you have to debug the program, make sure that the answer is right... So, after four or five rounds of these things, I got pretty good...  

SW: "And the use of the proper tools is itself a valuable thing for those about to enter the real world where they will use those tools. "

It is like that old joke about how to find the height of a building with a barometer.  Find the building engineer and offer him the barometer. ("This is a physics class!")  OK, go to the roof, throw the barometer over and time the fall, then solve s = -(1/2) * g * t^2.  (Probably five or six different solutions...)

 

While Luke's experiece is hardly unique, it remains that most teachers in most times and places are mostly happy to find someone who thinks on their own.

 

BTW: anyone here still have a slide rule?  More than one?



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Thursday, July 10 - 8:45pmSanction this postReply
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Yes, I've got two. One is a K and E polyphase trig. I used it until about 1964.

 

Sam



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Thursday, July 17 - 9:45pmSanction this postReply
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I have a slide rule calculator for calculating exposure times based on Ci, thickness of steel, distance and film sensitivity for Ir-192 and Co-60! :)



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Friday, July 18 - 4:53amSanction this postReply
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For work years ago I had a Hewlett-Packard 12C. I was a little surprised they are still made, but I understand why. They are very durable, efficient, and one of only four calculators permissible in the Chartered Financial Analyst exams per Wikipedia.  I probably used mine for the CFA exams, but can't remember. I was fond of its reverse Polish notation.



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Friday, July 18 - 9:20amSanction this postReply
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At the UPS Store, I noticed a circular slide rule for printing hanging up behind the copiers.  

 

Printer



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