Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Math is a creative and messy human art

Paul Lockhart is a mathematics teacher at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, New York. He writes:
What I find so pathetic about our math education system is that it reduces a lively, creative, and messy human art form to a sterile set of notations and procedures, then attempts to train students to master them and become "technically skilled." Of course it fails even on its own terms because there is no coherent narrative - the teacher doesn't know where the natural logarithm came from, what its problem history is, what it means within the context of modern mathematics, only that it's on the test and the students need to "know" it. So the students cram some formulas into their heads for a day or two, pass a test, and promptly forget them. Of course most people can't retain dry, meaningless hieroglyphic information that they had no role in creating or contextualizing, so they get classified by the teacher (and by themselves) as "bad at math." (I worry that the most talented mathematician of our time may be a waitress in Tulsa, Oklahoma who considers herself bad at math.
http://radiofreeschool.blogspot.com/2009/09/more-laments-about-math.html

4 comments:

AprilS said...

I completely agree that our current system is ridiculous. We need to be teaching kids to love math not see it as an obstacle to overcome.

In fact, I was reading an article about it last week and wrote a blog post about it.

http://blog.thinkwell.com/2010/11/is-our-country-teaching-math-wrong.html

Spinning Memories said...

http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf

Math is the music of reason.
A lovely article on the same lines

Saint Chuck said...

I've always hated math at school because it is so boring. When I find a problem that I find interesting, I'll spend ages trying to solve it on my own. At school, I just ignore math, because I understand none of it. Math is beautiful, school math is not.

rfs said...

@Saint-Chuck-what kind of math are you exploring outside of school?

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