Computer vs Pencil


Hi, I am in the 10th grade and for my geometry class we have to create and argument for one of this two options. 

Argument A: There is a need for students to understand and be able to construct geometric figures using a compass and straightedge.

Argument B: There is no need for students to use a compass and straightedge, and all geometric constructions should be done using a drawing program.

I choose  argument A. My teacher wants to talk to unprofessional to see their opinions to use for our argument. So my question is to anyone who is working or studying in the architecture field, Do you think students should have to learn how to create geometric figures by hand? If so why and how does this apply in the real world?

Sep 5, 12 11:48 am

What you need to develop is an intuitive understanding of geometric relationships and how to manipulate them. Learning how to do geometric proofs with compass and straightedge is an essential part of developing that knowledge. That knowledge will be used by an architect in many ways, from the creation of complex computer models to hand-sketching. In fact, on of the first things they teach in architectural perspective drawing class is how to use basic geometric principles we all learned in 10th grade geometry to quickly draw realistic and correctly-proportioned perspective images.

So, yes, I think it's important that students still learn how to do geometry the old fashioned way. Even though a computer will automate a lot of the calculation and construction for you, you still need to understand the geometric principles at work in order to use them. The computer is just a tool.

Sep 5, 12 12:01 pm

Somebody still has to write those computer programs that draw geometries.

Sep 5, 12 12:03 pm

Thank your very much, This is very helpful. I wanted to ask if it is o.k to quote you for my project? 

Sep 5, 12 12:14 pm

We're posting in a public forum on the internet. Quote whatever you want.

Sep 5, 12 12:17 pm

argument a and b both imply that there is an absolute.  they're both wrong.

the pencil is a tool just like a computer is a tool.  you don't need a pencil to learn how to do whatever it is you think you're going to do with complex geometries.  you need a brain.  that's the tool that will make the pencil or computer work. 

are you really suggesting that  a compass is required to understand how to draw a perspective?  Or is a compass only required to understand that a circle is round?

how about a new option:

Argument C: There is no need for students to use a compass and straightedge, but you can use them if you like.  A drawing program is another option.

Sep 5, 12 12:17 pm


I actually do think that straightedge and compass are better tools for learning geometric principles than a computer. Computers are powerful and incredible time-savers, but they provide a workspace that is highly abstract and removed from direct experience.

Learning geometric principles via pencil and straightedge on paper is direct and tactile in a way that computer learning isn't. Thus, while it takes longer to draw, the principles get learned and internalized faster. There have been all kinds of studies done over the years that validate this principle. Pencils and computers are just tools, but they are tools that work in different ways and are better adapted for some things that others. The relationship between mind and hand through pencil and paper is very direct (same with sculpting clay, for that matter). You lose that direct connection when a computer interface is involved. Once you know and have intuitively internalized the principles, the computer allows you to magnify that knowledge in practical application immensely, but for the learning itself you need something much more tangible and direct, even if it is tedious and frustrating to do it that way.

This is also why I insist on seeing a demonstration of hand-drawing skills even for prospective employees who will only be doing computer drafting or modeling. What they can do with a pencil shows me in a very direct way how their brains work and whether or not they really understand what they're doing when they try to graphically represent spatial concepts and systems, without the computer as an intermediary to fudge the results for them.

Sep 5, 12 12:29 pm

what i disagree with in your statement is that you are proposing an absolute.  just because that's what works for you now does not mean that is what works for everyone forever.  i think that thinking that way can be dangerous or at least counter-productive towards improving the future.

I think that your belief in pencils and clay stems from a world of pencils and clay.  that makes sense to you because those are the tools that basically formed your brain's eye-hand coordination and it's ability to formulate geometry and such.  for someone who spent more time using a computer as an interface instead of physical objects during formative years, their brain could easily be wired such that eye-hand coordination is more intuitive with a mouse or stylus.  a circle is the same if it's on a piece of paper or a computer screen. 

this is an article about video games changing people's brains.  it's not tied as close to this discussion as i would like, so if anyone knows of a more detailed experiment or study related to how new technologies can change a person's brain, especially in how that related to a person's ability to analyze and form complex geometric shapes, i would like to see it.  perhaps some of you college professor types looking for grant money can pair up with a neurobiologist (i think that's a thing, but not sure).

Sep 5, 12 12:52 pm

The next person I meet who can "draw" well using a computer and visualize complex three-dimensional relationships who can't also sketch reasonably well with a pencil will be the first.

I stand by my statement about drawing with a pencil vs. drawing with a computer. The former is a very simple, easy-to-use tool that requires essentially no intermediation to use effectively. The latter is a highly complex tool that is totally dependent on intermediation and layers of abstraction. As a general rule (not absolute, but so broadly true that exceptions are vanishingly rare), people who can't use simple tools will fail at using the complex ones for the same task. Also, because software black-boxes so much of the process (that intermediation thing I mentioned), a lot of people use it as a crutch rather than a tool, substituting the programmer's judgment and work structure for their own judgment. This is a particular problem when it comes to BIM.

Also, you sure do seem to have an active fantasy life about me and my background.

Sep 5, 12 1:13 pm

Curt, what are your views on learning to spell? We have spellcheck afterall. Why would kids need to learn that sounds are represented with symbols that are further influenced by word patterns and customs. Important? Many don't think so. I disagree, and enjoy being able to understand the parts that make the whole and how it all connects to my body and mind.

Sep 5, 12 1:33 pm
benjamin franklin

Fallacy of weak analogy, you need to now basic spelling for auto correct any way.


i didn't mean to offend by implying you grew up in a world of pencils and clay if you took it that way.  that's the world I grew up in as well as most current architects due to the fact that computers and their associated programs were not as sophisticated when we were younger.  sometime i even draw with a pencil.  i was using pencil/clay as an analogy to explain that the foundation for one person's learning experiences can be different from another person.  my statement was supposed to be focused on looking forward and considering perspectives outside my own ego and not fantasizing about the past.

Sep 5, 12 1:36 pm

i'm a fan of learning to spell.  while there may be a change in mindset or behavior due to spellcheck, i think people have been shown to consistently benefit from their own proofreading.  by the way, my spelling and grammar has not been perfect on the forums and i apologize for that.  sort of like calling the kettle black.

this has been studied at a university level.

Sep 5, 12 1:46 pm

Argument B: There is no need for students to use a compass and straightedge, and all geometric constructions should be done using a drawing program.

Argument B definitely wins.  Let's just hope that the power never goes out.  Or that the Chinese making our computers don't start demanding decent wages and thus pricing many of us out of the market.


Sep 5, 12 2:45 pm

@eclecticwierdo, you should read this recent essay from the NYT, here is an excerpt:

"As I work with my computer-savvy students and staff today, I notice that something is lost when they draw only on the computer. It is analogous to hearing the words of a novel read aloud, when reading them on paper allows us to daydream a little, to make associations beyond the literal sentences on the page. Similarly, drawing by hand stimulates the imagination and allows us to speculate about ideas, a good sign that we’re truly alive.”

Sep 5, 12 2:53 pm
benjamin franklin

that's his own personal experience because not all humans work the same due to different environmental evolutions of there personality. just because his idea of being alive is dreaming about imaginary worlds in books or non-imaginary this is simply a waste of time unless these books are text books that can be applied to life and not just leisure than who is he to say what is alive and not some people just rather be in the real world than the imaginary world solving real-time problems not off stuck in the fantasy of a book.

Non Sequitur

You ok bro? Why jesus zombify a 8 year old thread?


this is a tired argument that never dies, so truly appropriate to keep in the undead state.


Are we really still talking about this?

Sep 5, 12 4:38 pm

Drawing with a compass is part of learning "craft" and training the hand and eye to operate together.  As your hand slips, or the pencil becomes dull, or you simply struggle to make it look like you want it to, you are training the hand to produce what the eye desires.  Do you need a compass to perform geometry?  No.  Will you manually draft in an architecture office?  Probably not.  But somewhere along the line, craft still needs to be learned.

Sep 5, 12 4:48 pm

Why should we bother using these outdated $hits called pencil, graphite, color pigments, and color pen and pencils? I just threw out mine a couple of days ago. Believe it or not. I feel GREAT! I buried them under 10,000 feet, so I won't have to see them again. Wooo Hoooooo!! What a great moment!

Now I start loving turtles too. These old, slow creatures are not cute though. 

Sep 6, 12 12:04 am

Both A) and B) are crucial to your academic education.  However, they should be treated as a luxury.  The profession requires that you already know how to both draft (precision) and sketch (conceive) intuitively.   

Pen, paper, and a table, coupled with innate ability to create sketches on the fly is invaluable in the field. 

Sep 6, 12 8:39 am

If I may add something to the conversation:  Evaluating the merits of either digital-based or analog-based media/tools/processes should not come down to the value of the PRODUCT as it relates to learning, but rather the value of the residues and histories of the respective processes.  Ultimately, you can't rely on the 'product' of either process to support your argument(s).  Both tools have very different ways of treating the detritus of an iterative design process, and their value to each person depends on how a student or designer uses, and is exposed to, the leftovers.

Sep 6, 12 9:23 am
boy in a well

OP - your question is wrong.

Brisket5150: are you named after whats in david lee roth's pants?

OP: the probelm with your question is that people who learn to "cad" from the beginning as opposed to drawing / drafting tend not to actually learn how to DRAFT. There's no need to understand projections and the intersections of solids when you can just change views or run a command. Now I wont pretend to account for every school and its methods, but generally from what i've seen of students over the recent years descriptive geometry and the lovely complexities of DRAFTING are out the window.

Of course, just constructing 2d geometry is different, but it also has its own tricks and techiques, which fizzle their way into all sorts of masonic goodness.

Still, if if your question is about the tool for constructing geometric figures, then its still a moot question. who cares if you use a straight edge or a computer, which can be considered - not as the absence of a straight edge, but as a really expensive straight edge: do you actually know how to do it?? How do you construct an equalateral triangle? and pentagon? etc... old fashioned shit. you can do it by hand or use the exact same techniques on a computer - if you want to.

so - false choice.

the issue of craft is important. maybe that's what underlies the initial question - poorly worded though if that's the question.

Yawn. Im sleepy. Why am i talking to a 10th grader? Geometry can be done with a string, digital or otherwise if you know how.

Sep 6, 12 9:49 am

Vile Child...go get some sleep, because your comedy isn't really working for you right now.

Did you even read what I wrote?  At the end of the day, the issue of "craft" is relevant if you're willing to recognize it as a potentially inaccurate indicator of the process used.  Things can be manipulated, digital to appear analog and vice versa.  The source tools and any indication of how they were used as it reads in the qualities of the product can be camouflaged.


Then again, maybe we're saying the same thing...does one actually know how to do it?  My point is, both processes have inherently different ways of recording one's steps and mistakes.

Sep 6, 12 10:03 am
boy in a well

actually my dear - i wasnt arguing or responding to you - i just thought your name was very funny. as to your post, its a tad unclear to me, not that i want to delve into it. Craft or product is exactingly clear and reliable, unless you get into, as you follow up does, the imitation of one by the other re: analog drawing and digital drawing - but thats a totally digital argument and maybe one confined to images. Not sure if it could extend to the manufacture or craft of anything else.

Not sure if we're saying the same thing, but here's to hoping for the best!


Sep 6, 12 10:14 am

No matter how you learn geometry, brain is the main character.

I always believed in technology. It gives us more time to think instead of struggle how I can draw a circle bigger than desk, paper, or the compass would do.

Time has changed. We are not using many old tools anymore and we have far better understanding than old days. Yes we lost some of the abilities but we gained so much we can even compare.

Today if you teach how to use compass, ruler, etc. (as a tool) to any computer trained brain could figure out how to create geometry in an hour.

Therefore if you understand what is geometry you can easily use them when you have to.

For your sake eclecticwierdo, every generation faces such a kind of arguments one way or another. There is no absolute answers. We only have to have respect for every aspect of knowledge that we gained along the way and keep them handy (in case we need them).

Sep 6, 12 2:32 pm

"Why am I talking to a 10th grader?" Jerk.

Sep 6, 12 2:58 pm
boy in a well

what, are you in 10th grade too?

Sep 6, 12 6:46 pm

Both options are valid and necessary as part of the discipline of architecture. The warmth and graphic quality of a sketch by hand can be stronger than a rendered perspective, much depends on what you want to express.

Sep 6, 12 8:04 pm


Jul 28, 16 1:17 pm

Great bump.

Jul 28, 16 1:18 pm
Non Sequitur

Best first post award right there.

Jul 28, 16 1:39 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

but how do you prounce POTATOES?

Jul 29, 16 7:32 am
Non Sequitur

Immortalized in the George and Ira Gershwin song "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" is the nitpicking of pronunciation differences:

You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto,
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!

According to Wikipedia and other sources, the English do pronounce tomato as tə-MAH-toh rather than tə-MAY-toh. But this doesn't seem to be the case when it comes to potato.

(From the O.E.D.)

tomato – Pronunciation: /təˈmɑːtəʊ/
potato – Pronunciation: /pəˈteɪtəʊ/

Jul 29, 16 8:05 am


now....... what was the original topic again?

Aug 4, 16 3:32 pm

The comments went from interesting to really out of topic real quickly

Aug 15, 16 7:08 pm

btw their is no need to insult other people opinion. They're free to have their own opinion.

Aug 15, 16 7:09 pm

I'm doing the same project as electric weirdo and this really helped me see both point of view so thanks.

Aug 15, 16 7:19 pm
sherry canon

I think that it is important for students to understand how to use a straightedge and a compass while constructing geometric figures. There are mainly two reasons - firstly they will be less dependent on technology which cannot be relied upon all the time and secondly not everyone would have an access to a drawing program because their prices may vary and not everyone would be able to afford it and also learning to use the compass and a straightedge would help the students to learn step by step, a drawing program maybe a lot easier to use but learning it in the old fashioned  way is the best.  

Aug 16, 16 12:38 am

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