The Mathematician’s Lament

It’s 10:45pm and I just came across this compelling article called “The Mathematician’s Lament” that I’ve now read half of. I’m going to finish it off when I have more time, and post my reaction to it. From what I’ve gleaned thus far, this article is incredible provocative. I can’t say I wholly agree with everything the author says, but he also does hit a few points home.

Some juicy quotations to get you hooked:

Sadly, our present system of mathematics education is precisely this kind of nightmare. In fact, if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done— I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the crushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education.

By concentrating on what, and leaving out why, mathematics is reduced to an empty shell. The art is not in the “truth” but in the explanation, the argument. It is the argument itself which gives the truth its context, and determines what is really being said and meant. Mathematics is the art of explanation. If you deny students the opportunity to engage in this activity— to pose their own problems, make their own conjectures and discoveries, to be wrong, to be creatively frustrated, to have an inspiration, and to cobble together their own explanations and proofs— you deny them mathematics itself. So no, I’m not complaining about the presence of facts and formulas in our mathematics classes, I’m complaining about the lack of mathematics in our mathematics classes.

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