A Better View of Math

Published on Thursday, July 05, 2007 in , , , , , , , ,

BrainIn Carnival of Mathematics XI, I began by discussing the ways in which math is commonly viewed. I thought this topic deserved further attention.

Leland McInnes highlights the problem itself by pondering what would happen if we taught English the way we teach mathematics. This article really helps you understand the problems the modern mathematics teachers face.

David Appell, in his article Math = beauty + truth / (really hard), sums up the problem quite well. The trick with math is getting them interested in the mystery, the result and the process. This can be done, as the Computer Science Unplugged videos demonstrate. Another good example is the journey taken by Andrew Wiles to solve Fermat's Last Theorem.

Often, the best way to create interest in math is to change perspective. One of the most classic examples of this approach would be Edwin Abbott's 1884 book, Flatland, about life in a 2-dimensional world. The hero, A. Square (yes, that's a proper name), learns about the nature of dimension after encountering lines, points and spheres. This great work is even being turned into Flatland: The Movie, which is now available on DVD to schools, and will be available as a home DVD later this year.

What can happen when students are properly motivated? Daniel Greenberg shows that it can take only 20 hours to teach 6 years worth of math.

This challenge is a large part of the reason I started this site. If brainy topics can be made interesting, and even entertaining, then perhaps we can get more people to take a closer look at them.

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1 Response to A Better View of Math

3:22 PM

Some teachers do not know maths well but it is part of their remit to teach maths. They make the subject a lot harder than it needs to be. An analogy is teachers who can not spell well but who have to mark english essays. But I think that every generation has diamonds who will rise above the set-backs; it's the inbetween people who I feel sorry for.