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Math in the News(paper)

Last year, Professor Steven Strogatz of Cornell University wrote a series of op-eds for the New York Times that discussed the presence of mathematics in unlikely places. I discussed one of these columns here. Now, either those articles were well-received, or Professor Strogatz is well-connected, because this year he’s back in the Times with a much more ambitious series of articles. This time around, Strogatz is attempting to “[write] about the elements of mathematics, from preschool to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject.”

Preschool to grad school is a significant amount of ground to cover, but thus far Strogatz has used his articles to assault this goal with gusto. To date, he has tackled counting, patterns in addition, negative numbers, division, and basic high school algebra. This doesn’t really do justice to his content, though. Along the way he . . . → Read More: Math in the News(paper)

Read a Mathematician’s Lament

I recently had the pleasure of stumbling across Paul Lockhart’s essay, A Mathematician’s Lament. Lockhart, a former research mathematician in analytic number theory who received his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1990, decided to leave academia in 2000 in order to concentrate on K-12 math education, which he hass been doing at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn.

Lockhart’s article lambasts the current state of mathematics education in this country. Some of his main points are the following: Mathematics is an art form, but unlike other art forms like music or painting, is not understood as such by the general population. As a result, students are not exposed to the beauty of mathematics, and are instead taught through drill and memorization, which effectively kills any natural curiosity the student may have. The most important part of mathematics lies not in the facts or theorems that students memorize, but in the arguments that . . . → Read More: Read a Mathematician’s Lament