Monday, June 24, 2013

Cognitive loss-gain

My dad was for many years a math education professor at Virginia Tech, and he taught me how to use a slide rule and all that, and frankly, I was really glad when the calculator was invented! (I never did really "get" the slide rule.) My parents ran right out and bought that first Texas Instrument calculator sold to consumers. I remember it was $125. And you know it could probably add and subtract. <G>

Anyway, I remember saying to him how there has to be some cognitive loss that comes because children don't have to really learn arithmetic (I know it's still taught, but let's face it-- as soon as they're allowed, kids will be resorting like the rest of us to calculators). And he said he remembered when computerized cash registers came in, the ones that tell you how much change is due, and that he was sure something would be lost cognitively when no one learned to count backwards to make change. (You remember-- $10 given for a $5.52 bill... you counted out the four dollar bills to get down to $6, and then the change to get down to .52.) But he then shrugged and said, "Didn't seem to matter. The cashiers learned some new process instead. The specific process might not matter as much as the whole forging new neural pathways activity."

"Something's lost but something's gained," I guess.

But are there losses? Are there things we used to learn from doing that we don't learn because we don't have to do that anymore? (As I said, I think every child should have to learn to cook. Lots of cognitive skills there that won't happen if we all just put things in the microwave. :)

But is there room in the human brain for all those old lessons AND how to program our cell phone?


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