Not only do calculators have solving capabilities, but some computer programs or websites also provide step-by-step solutions to questions (here is WolframAlpha's). Although I understand a logical approach to doing questions, where one step leads to another (often due to algebraic manipulation), if a computer could print out a solution to a math test that is virtually indistinguishable from a student's then should that test be changed?

Although there is the academic dishonesty side of things (where maybe one might use the computer to make it seem they know the calculations), there's also the issue that I might be teaching and testing the students in a skill-set that will be replaced. The computer (occupation) is obsolete now and so what's the point of testing to see if a person could do what a computer could do (and most likely would do outside the classroom)?

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    $\begingroup$ Someday computers might be able to do creative work just as well as humans. At that point, should we stop teaching people anything at all? $\endgroup$ – Steven Gubkin Aug 13 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Steven Gubkin One can also ask: At what point should we ever CHANGE the way we teach people? Or test them? That's what the question is about. $\endgroup$ – Peter Saveliev Aug 14 at 23:30


There is a sort of magical thinking implicit here that something needs to stay, be different between computers and people. At the end of the day, we are "meat" computers. And the computers themselves are getting more and more sophisticated in doing things that were hard for them previously. But the existence of a soul (whether or not true) does not change the inherent fact that there is and will be an overlap of computer and human reasoning.

Just because a horse runs faster, doesn't mean there is no value in running for a man. Similarly as computers learn facial recognition, it does not obviate the need/benefit to humans in doing the same.

Even the tasks that you (implicitly) and many others here deprecate as mere calculations are actually very important to new students, building their skills. One struggles with the higher level skills, if one hasn't mastered the lower level ones. So the idea that we'll just stop doing mechanical skills and do some sort of ETS neoliberal "concept" stuff is a chimera.

P.s. What's really funny is seeing the same people who say "let the kids use WA" and "who cares about mechanical skills" complain when their remedial pre-calc kids don't know dem fractions...

P.s.s. I will cede you that cursive is on the way out. But basic calculational skills? Sorry...needed. Been hearing this "don't need it" story since the 70s... from the calculator/computer pushers...and basic manipulation skills are still needed.

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