Is it cheating to use Wolfram|Alpha for math homework? That was the presentation topic of Conrad Wolfram, Wolfram Research’s Director of Strategic Development, at the TEDx Brussels conference at the European Parliament. Conrad shares his viewpoint in this thought-provoking (and often entertaining) video.

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11 Comments

Can we have a transcript please?

Posted by Brian Gilbert January 23, 2010 at 9:07 am Reply

Is it cheating to use W|A for Maths homework? Not if you state that you have done so. If you are not supposed to use it you get zero marks, so you had better ask.

Posted by Brian Gilbert January 24, 2010 at 5:24 am Reply

That was a very interesting presentation! Very well done! I hope that in the future many students will use Wolfram | Alpha in their benefit. This is a very important step to understand the conceputual math that we use in our day by day life. Keep up the good work!

Posted by Vio January 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm Reply

Thanks for pointing me to http://www.youtube.com/user/tedtalksdirector

Sebastian

Posted by Sebastian January 24, 2010 at 6:32 pm Reply

When the need for alternative applications are needed it is not cheating but inventing new ways to approach a problem..

Posted by Hector Dee January 25, 2010 at 4:21 am Reply

What this points to more than ever for me is that the teaching of rote learned facts – event X was on this date, person Y was the king, math problem Z resolves to such and such – has rapidly decreasing value in the 21st Century as the time taken for anyone to discover factual data has approached zero.

Facts are now a near-zero cost commodity.

Rather, what needs to be taught is critical thinking, idea creation, questioning of dogma, creativity (as much as such a thing can be taught) and most of all, context. Students should be taught to ask, “How does this apply to my world? If event X was on this date, what predeterminants caused it, and what was the post-event sequence of events caused by the event? Why did those things happen? What was in place that made it so? Who were the actors, if any and why?” You get where I’m headed.

Technology is a given in learning today, so teaching the skills of the 21st Century, underpinned by technical literacy and good digital citizenship are key.

So, not cheating at all, in any circumstance. Simply intelligent use of the available tools to access commoditised information. 21st Century skills applied.

Posted by Stephen Collins January 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm Reply

The video is blocked due to my work firewall, but interestingly enough this topic has come up among my coworkers and our school-aged children.

One particular coworker uses Wolfram|Alpha ask a tutoring aid and also to check his son’s homework. For some coworkers who didn’t focus on math or science in school have completely forgotten even the most basic algebraic formulas. Wolfram|Alpha is a great teaching aid to remind parents as well as visually instruct students/children.

Is it cheating to use this amazing tool in the above context… no.
Is it cheating to use Wolfram|Alpha to plug in the problem and then only show the answer on a homework question or take-home exam… yes.

I don’t think there is a black & white discussion as to whether or not using Wolfram|Alpha for math homework is cheating. I do think there are many other things to learn while using Wolfram|Alpha for math homework, such as ethics and the fact that someone had to know more than Wolfram|Alpha in order to program Wolfram|Alpha. In other words, it is still very important that students still learn even though resources like Wolfram|Alpha exist.

By the way, I also refer to Wolfram|Alpha as an encyclopedia for Social Studies homework, like the capitals, populations, and state birds of US states. Would that be cheating, too?

Posted by Scott Wertel January 28, 2010 at 4:14 pm Reply

It SHOULDN’T be cheating for people who do are not professional mathematicians or plan to be mathematicians. For everyone else it would be better to teach the history of math and applied real like math examples. Great Talk!

Thanks!..and thanks for Wolfram Alpha.

:)

Posted by tff December 24, 2010 at 11:50 pm Reply

It is not cheating in my opinion to use Wolfram Alpha to help you double check math or to help you get “unstuck” on a Math problem in my opinion.
Several times I would be working on a math problem (for engineering I’m an engineer- ) and I would get stuck or do something wrong in my math.
In the old days you’d have to wait to talk with the professor & check your work step by step which could take a long time.
Now I can plug in the problem in their Wolfram Alpha can show me the steps & I can see exactly where I made a mistake and I don’t have to wait to see a professor.
Wolfram Alpha has helped me understand math immensely as an Engineer & Its a great tool.

Posted by Mitch January 13, 2012 at 11:27 pm Reply

he forgets one important thing. engineers can not solve true engineering problems without knowing exactly how the process works by hand. wolf ram wont calculate the force at point A. you need to know how to draw a FBD and manipulate the values to get an answer that will be safe for use. that’s why a computer will never replace an engineer like wolf ram alpha will not replace doing math. it cant do anything other than process numbers. computers can not think.

Posted by will February 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm Reply

It is not cheating. It is a useful tool when a tutor is not around. Exams are used to test your comprehension. Exams are always weighed heavier on that homework. At least this is the case at my school.

Posted by Jesse January 30, 2014 at 9:54 pm Reply
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