Strange Loop

September 26-28 2018

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Stifel Theatre

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St. Louis, MO

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Step by Step - Algorithms that teach you math!

Most computer algebra systems are good at solving equations but aren't very good at showing their work. If we're looking to educate students and automatically explain a problem intuitively, how does our approach to developing the algorithms have to change?

Let's talk about mathsteps, an open source library that solves algebra problems and not only provides the answer, but shows you the steps that get you there. Some algorithms are designed to optimize for space or speed, but I'll talk about how we design algorithms to optimize for teaching - algorithms that explain to you what you're doing and why.

We'll walk through the process of how a human might solve algebra problems and how that can be translated into an algorithm - from parsing math input, to using data structures that make teaching easier, to deciding which solving steps are most intuitive to apply first and how to group them together. Finally we'll talk about the future of tools like mathsteps - possibilities as well as limitations.

Evy Kassirer

Evy Kassirer loves to sing (especially in choirs) and code (especially for social good). She's studying Computer Science at the University of Waterloo and has interned at Google, Khan Academy, and Socratic (where she built mathsteps to bring free math help to students around the world).