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the only truth I know is my own experience

A Mathematician’s Lament – or why I hated math at school May 10, 2010

Mathimatics has been always a horrow subject to me. My brain blocks when I only see numbers and formulas… It’s a wonder how I could have survived so far with such an attitute towards maths!

Renecetly I came across an amazing article on mathematics, which literary has blown my mind. A Mathematician’s Lament, is written by Paul Lockhart in 2002. Paul is a mathematics teacher at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York. His article has been circulating through parts of the mathematics and math ed communities ever since. His point is that much mathematics education is hijacked by people who know nothing about it.

Here are some quotes:
“The first thing to understand is that mathematics is an art.  The difference between math and
the other arts, such as music and painting, is that our culture does not recognize it as such. 
Everyone understands that poets, painters, and musicians create works of art, and are expressing themselves in word, image, and sound. 

In fact, our society is rather generous when it comes to  creative expression; architects, chefs, and even television directors are considered to be working artists.  So why not mathematicians?
 
Part of the problem is that nobody has the faintest idea what it is that mathematicians do. 
The common perception seems to be that mathematicians are somehow connected with
science– perhaps they help the scientists with their formulas, or feed big numbers into
computers for some reason or other.  There is no question that if the world had to be divided into the “poetic dreamers” and the “rational thinkers” most people would place mathematicians in the latter category.
  
Nevertheless, the fact is that there is nothing as dreamy and poetic, nothing as radical,
subversive, and psychedelic, as mathematics.
  It is every bit as mind blowing as cosmology or
physics (mathematicians conceived of black holes long before astronomers actually found any), and allows more freedom of expression than poetry, art, or music (which depend heavily on properties of the physical universe).  Mathematics is the purest of the arts, as well as the most misunderstood.
 
So let me try to explain what mathematics is, and what mathematicians do.  I can hardly do
better than to begin with G.H. Hardy’s excellent description: 

A mathematician, like a painter or poet, is a maker
of patterns.  If his patterns are more permanent than
theirs, it is because they are made with ideas.
 

So mathematicians sit around making patterns of ideas.  What sort of patterns?  What sort of
ideas?  Ideas about the rhinoceros?  No, those we leave to the biologists.  Ideas about language and culture?  No, not usually.  (more…)

 

 
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