Breakout session A:
How computers think - Quantitative reasoning across the curriculum

Breakout session A
How computers think - Quantitative reasoning across the curriculum

Saturday, November 8, 2003
9:45 - 11:00 am

Andre Adler, Coordinator, Foundation of Scientific Inquiry, Morse Adademic Plan- New York University
Erich Goldstein, Science, Technology & Society/Quantitative Reasoning- New School University

In the world of today, computers are everywhere. We drive cars with computer-assisted functions, stop at traffic lights timed by computer chips, to arrive at schools and offices connected to the internet by computer. But how does the computer work? How can a computer make calculations, store information, and control other devices? Ultimately, how does a computer think? It's all through the use of electricity and Boolean logic.

Electricity is immediately relevant to a student's life, but often logic seems less so. This isn't true. The computer makes all of its decisions and calculations utilizing integrated circuits, which are essentially tiny logic machines. This provides a through line to teach students several topics in mathematics and physics and to make it applicable to their lives. These topics include logic, circuits, number bases, algebra, and deductive reasoning. But what's more, the subject need not be lecture based. Students can actually build components of the computer using switches, transistors, and integrated circuits. They have hands on experience in how the computer works at its most basic level.

In this workshop session, we will discuss learning objectives and goals for a course or module about the digital logic level of the computer. We will also participate in an activity in which we can see how logic and circuits can model one another. And we will talk about ways to incorporate these topics into a course for any length of time from three class periods to three months. Participants will receive sample syllabi, an example laboratory project, and estimated costs for equipment.