Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An essay on Mathematics and education

I just read an essay on Mathematics by Dr. Robert Lewis named "What Math?"  This has to be the single best essay I have ever read on Mathematics and why it is so important.  I can imagine Dr. Lewis has been peppered with cynic criticism about understanding math just as much as any of us in our analytical profession.  Dr. Lewis does a superb job of explaining the essence of why those of us that use math love it so much.

Educating Math to our newer generations is definitely a concern.  I really like how Dr. Lewis explains that education is not just about transfer of information but the understanding of underlying principles of specific knowledge.  The parables are a very clever device to relay those principles of math. 

I also love how he portrays Math as not just a device for the technologically minded but also for the liberal arts.  Dr. Lewis conveys that Math is not merely knowing numbers but the processes of finding solutions.  My own example is when people often ask me how I am so good at math.  I usually tell them its just like learning a language.  Once you understand the language and are fluent then you can start applying it in everyday life.  Math is a language to learn just as much a foreign language.  It may take some time to learn but it will take a lifetime to master.

I highly recommend reading this essay.  I also recommend saving this essay for our future generations, teachers, educators, family members, and friends.  This essay can be used to help bridge understanding that may be missing from our own words. 

2 comments:

Paul Rubin said...

Thanks for the pointer -- it really is a great essay. Unfortunately, teaching mathematical thinking (as opposed to computation and formula memorization) faces numerous challenges: it requires teachers that actually _get_ math; it's harder to test; and I suspect it's harder to keep the weaker/less motivated students within shouting distance of the gifted/motivated/halfway decent students.

Tallys said...

Great essay indeed! I've met so many "Hostile Party Goers" that I've lost count.