“We teach numbers, then algebra, then calculus, then physics. Wrong!” exclaims the Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematician Professor Seymour Papert, a pioneer in artificial intelligence. “Start with engineering, and from that abstract out physics, and from that abstract out ideas of calculus, and eventually separate off pure mathematics. So much better to have the first-grade kid or kindergarten kid doing engineering and leave it to the older ones to do pure mathematics than to do it the other way around.”
Hands on. The idea had been around – Montessori and John Dewy and all sorts of people had said you’ll learn better by making things, doing things, hands on. But, for something like mathematics, there really wasn’t very much that you could do if you’re a little kid that contacts a lot of the deep ideas we’d like them to learn. So, mathematics grew out of building the pyramids and sailing the oceans and predicting the stars and you can’t give kids pyramids to build or oceans [to sail] so we could only give them very trivial things to do. You know measuring the schoolyard is ridiculous mathematically, it’s trivial and nobody’s interested in it. Comes the computer and it’s now possible to let kids free in a big world where they can create and they can make things and do things and that are really rich in concepts.
Source: Sunday Profile