Author: Art Bardige

I am a digital learning pioneer who believes that technology can play a great role in enabling every child to learn efficiently, effectively, and economically. What if Math is my latest work and the most exciting I have ever been involved with. I hope you will give it a try.


Welcome to the first of our new Explorations. Joining the work of What if Math and Education Resources Consortium (ERC), Explorations provide students with a comprehensive learning experience with fascinating questions, interesting places to go, and powerful tools to use to solve problems.

Our first Exploration is Sand and Stars where students can discover an answer to the question: “Are there more grains of sand on earth or stars in the universe?” Sand and Stars is free, as will be the case with all future Explorations. This Explorations is designed for students to use on their own independently or in teams collaboratively, accompanied by instructional support as needed.

If you want highly interactive online content, if you want your students to work together on experiments and projects that interest them, if you want them to learn to use the power of the Web and digital tools like spreadsheets, to learn to communicate with each other, to productively search the Web, to have a STEM focus, and to become problem solvers in the digital age; we encourage you to try our first Exploration, Sand and Stars.

In this time of change, when education must now be Web-based and in the foreseeable future when the Web will play a large role, it is our dream that you and your students find Sand and Stars a valuable and thrilling learning experience, the first of many such resources for learning in the digital age.

We look forward to your thoughts and comments. More to come soon! Here is the Teacher’s Guide to get you started.

My Mentors

Recently, in a history of physics magazine, I came across this picture and a short story on Harvard Project Physics, and I thought about the effect that this project, and these three people in particular, have had on my view of education. We all have mentors and I have the great good fortune to have had some wonderful ones. Fletcher Watson, Gerald Holton, and Jim Rutherford, in the physics project/curriculum they created, vectored me to think first about physics education and then all education as a human enterprise full of fascinating stories, real people, living concepts, and the history of ideas.

Their Harvard Project Physics program brought me to Fort Lauderdale to teach it’s beta version at Nova High School for two years, meet my wife Betty, then go to Cambridge to write a lab manual for some of its electronic equipment which turned into a stint making educational films and from there to teaching and developing a math curriculum with the same goals and objectives. It’s humanistic vision has underpinned all of my efforts to reenvision and redesign education in each of my entrepreneurial enterprises.

Today, I am working with some new mentors on a new, next generation, project to bring this same fundamental philosophy and pedagogy to learning in the digital age. I am as excited about this as I was about teaching Harvard Project Physics so long ago, and to bringing a new vision of online learning to all of our kids. Our Challenges Project follows on the work Peter, Ryan and I developed in What if Math and that is described in detail in my new book Make it Real, and the Grand Challenges work that Larry Myatt has brought to us. You can follow our progress here or send me an email if you want to join us to rethink education for our digital age.

My New Book

Our education model is broken.

Despite the economic promise of and documented need for a bachelor’s degree: graduation rates are stagnant, achievement gaps are widening, and costs are bankrupting our kids. While Digital-technology has transformed work, our schools retain their 19th century form and function defined by medieval paper-technology. The problems confronting our schools are caused by this new technology and requires it to solve them.

Despite my long career as a STEM educator and digital learning entrepreneur, I only very recently discovered the unique role technology plays in not just how we learn but in what we learn. I found it in the table of contents of a math book written in the year 1202. This has reshaped my work and will reinvent education. In my new book Make it Real, I tell the story of building a new foundation for learning math on spreadsheets, asking “What would math education look like if it were reinvented for the 21st century.” In its 6 chapters you will learn to use the content and digital tools of the Web to reimagine and redesign schools for the digital age.

1.  “Lord Knows it Needs Something”
The role of technology in both what and how we learn
2. The Aims of Education
The need for a college degree for a thriving middle class
3.  Make Room for the Future
Subtracting paper-age skills and adding digital-age skills
4.  The Idea that Changed the World
Functions and functional thinking for problem solving
5.  Learning Math as an Experimental Science
Lessons for learning math using spreadsheets
6.  What if…
Revolutionizing education by making it real and Open-Web

You will learn about the power of technology to transform, to make people more effective, efficient, and relevant learners. You will learn how Open-Web schools will reinvent education, turn teachers into students and students into teachers, integrate disciplines, and use the business world to redesign schools, redefine intelligence, and reevaluate progress. And you will learn how digital learning can prepare our kids for their future, not our past, and enable us to set an audacious goal: Double the number of college degrees at half the cost within the next decade.

My Favorite Teacher

Walt Hunter was a quiet man, slight and balding with a Great Plains accent. You might mark him as a teacher, but likely not the dynamic personality with a certain brashness that you would think of as a “favorite” teacher. He did not convince me to change my major from physics to chemistry even though he made me his chemistry lab assistant and spent untold hours talking with me about chemistry and teaching in his small office off my high school Chem lab. He did not convince me even though I learned to blow glass and enough chemistry to place out of two quarters of the first course at the University of Chicago. He did not convince me to become a teacher.
I came across his name recently while searching my house for old letters, pictures, and documents. He had sent me a letter, while I was then a new teacher at our old high school, inviting me to come to Missouri to see him at Meramec Community College where he had become a dean of instruction. I never went. Instead I headed to Fort Lauderdale to stay in high school teaching and to my great good fortune to meet the woman who I would spend most of my life with.

So as our digital world calls us to do, I looked him up and found an article he published in 1971 called Self-Directed Learning at Meramec Community College. It was a short report on a program he had initiated. It was written in his plain style and tells an amazing story, for this program he developed some 50 years ago reverberates in our time. He argues for Universal Higher Education and for a system of education under the heading Modern Challenge in which:

“…college departments need to develop more learning modes, leading to individualized achievement of well defined objectives. Thus, the student can, with guidance, select objectives which are appropriate to his needs and learning modes which fit his learning style.”

He calls for “A New Kind of College”

“a college based on a new philosophy of student learning and achievement.” “…colleges will be able to make significant gains in the efficient and effective utilization of available talents, spaces and facilities. Students would be freed to pursue learning individually via the most appropriate pathway…colleges would become learning centers…”

You can see why I now think him my favorite teacher. Teach as he taught. I learned so much from him including the vision of learning as a laboratory science. I wonder what he would have imagined if he had the technology we have today. I wish I could tell him that his student is continuing to carry on his mission.

The Math Guys

Our good friend Larry Myatt, one of the great thinkers and leaders on the future of education, recently sent out a New Years greeting that featured What if Math. We are partnering with Larry on a number of exciting projects in 2020 that we will keep you informed of. Meanwhile, I want to introduce you to Larry via his post and our new nickname. We, too, hope 2020 will be a good year for us all and for helping our kids learn math.

ERC: The Future of Math Education: What If?
“Happy New Year 2020. We at ERC are excited to share news about a new partnership for our Innovation and Redesign Network. This one with What If Math, folks with big ideas, with huge potential to change the way we look at math. Read on!