A Mathematician's Lamnent - How Schools are Destroying Math.

174 replies, posted

[URL]https://docs.google.com/a/student.lu.se/viewer?a=v&q=cache:qcqr-s07yTgJ:www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf+article+math+creativity+art&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShtuWAC3pVdpPkCH-J-sRac3MAPc9S-NY4fSzssyuaD8rnZtvotVHKuQRvzhrvT_lfVMUW81NcYWaGkgZbk1bNUKNFmJ2UuhJPsN6vob3nSy23XoAaVUTnwq0b-GTssPJx7Mrwv&sig=AHIEtbQRktN05TaMgJJnirJUfMaXMeOHwQ&pli=1]A[/URL]
Mathimatician's Lamnent describes perfectly how math shouldn't be taught, but how it sadly is being taught in schools now.
It raises some very good point on how sterile and boring math is being made. They never teach people the beauty of math and how it can show patterns in almost everything. I noticed this while going through the Swedish equivalent to high school that I didn't do well on math tests when I just tried to memorize the formulas and theorems. So instead I tried to understand them, this resulted in math being a lot more fun.
I also remember a book I had when I was little called: The Number Devil. It tries to teach math in just the way this essay describes, by trying to make it into an adventure.
Now that I am studying engineering at the university I am noticing how fun math can be when you try to understand it instead of memorizing it. The first math course we had was basically just us re-learning what we learned in high school, but instead of solving complicated problems using canned formulas, we tried to understand each problem and use our creativity to solve it.
What do you guys think? Is math being taught the wrong way in school?

Every math class I've ever had has been taught and graded with an emphasis on daily homework. If you don't do the homework, you'll fail the class. Regardless of what you get on the tests. I've always thought that it's a pretty shitty way to teach math classes, since the focus should be on understanding how to solve any problem, not regurgitating steps to solve a specific type of problem.

It is bullshit how terribly we're being taught. I barely understand it right now because it was basically "here's some numbers and here's some other numbers with some weird smaller numbers next to them" in my school.

I've always been conflicted with how math is taught in schools. I understand the importance of it and why it's needed, but I can't help but think in this day and age with powerful computers and calculators, if you were to get a job doing something where you had to use math, wouldn't you use these computers/calcs for efficiency?
But what about building logic and understanding how math works and why it works. Ok, then why are we allowed to use calcs to begin with. It defeats the purpose in my opinion.
I assume that schools not around where I live are much better, but I've never been to them.
In all math in schools definitely needs a change for the better.

I live in Massachusetts, in the U.S. I think my classes are pretty good: In honors Physics, we derived absolutely everything (except the fundamental laws) so that I almost didn't have to memorize anything. For Calc, we do derive a lot of the formulas we use, it just tends to be cumbersome to derive them again on your own, so we memorize them.

Read the whole thing, real thought-provoking stuff and fun stuff. I can agree with the fact that if math would be taught in a more inspiring way for the students, it would definitely make math less boring. Always loved me some patterns and shapes.

As a 15 year old being taught math, I must admit it's boring as two slugs fucking

My teacher seems like the only teacher left who actually teaches Math the old way. He doesn't go by the book, he goes by old techniques.

[QUOTE=IAreLegend;33026360]As a 15 year old being taught math, I must admit it's boring as two slugs fucking[/QUOTE]
I would find it quite interesting to watch two slugs fucking. I have never seen it before. But I agree with the OP, math can be terribly boring when taught in school.

[QUOTE=IAreLegend;33026360]As a 15 year old being taught math, I must admit it's boring as two slugs fucking[/QUOTE]
I can testify to this.

[QUOTE=IAreLegend;33026360]As a 15 year old being taught math, I must admit it's boring as two slugs fucking[/QUOTE]
Two slugs fucking would actually be pretty fascinating to watch.
But if I were to comment on the topic, I definitely agree.
I personally think that math, just like any subject, has a beautiful soul which should be shared and presented when teaching it. Unfortunately, a large quantity of wide spread teaching methods today ignore that soul, and make math a boring synthetic piece of crap that is based on memory and repetition a lot more then on actual logical thinking.

ITT: [media]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9s00jHyzXk[/media]
Anyways, thanks for posting the doc, I'd recommend anyone to read it.

I guess that's why I think math is not much more than a tool.

[QUOTE=clanratc;33025514][URL]https://docs.google.com/a/student.lu.se/viewer?a=v&q=cache:qcqr-s07yTgJ:www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf+article+math+creativity+art&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShtuWAC3pVdpPkCH-J-sRac3MAPc9S-NY4fSzssyuaD8rnZtvotVHKuQRvzhrvT_lfVMUW81NcYWaGkgZbk1bNUKNFmJ2UuhJPsN6vob3nSy23XoAaVUTnwq0b-GTssPJx7Mrwv&sig=AHIEtbQRktN05TaMgJJnirJUfMaXMeOHwQ&pli=1]A[/URL]
Mathimatician's Lamnent describes perfectly how math shouldn't be taught, but how it sadly is being taught in schools now.
It raises some very good point on how sterile and boring math is being made. They never teach people the beauty of math and how it can show patterns in almost everything. I noticed this while going through the Swedish equivalent to high school that I didn't do well on math tests when I just tried to memorize the formulas and theorems. So instead I tried to understand them, this resulted in math being a lot more fun.
I also remember a book I had when I was little called: The Number Devil. It tries to teach math in just the way this essay describes, by trying to make it into an adventure.
Now that I am studying engineering at the university I am noticing how fun math can be when you try to understand it instead of memorizing it. The first math course we had was basically just us re-learning what we learned in high school, but instead of solving complicated problems using canned formulas, we tried to understand each problem and use our creativity to solve it.
What do you guys think? Is math being taught the wrong way in school?[/QUOTE]
this reminds me of how i sort of changed my classes understanding on graphs. the teacher was basically saying "this is how you do it because i said so". I always completely finished all the problems before the rest of the class had done half. I taught them how to do x and y intercepts, and we just ended up sitting around in class, bored because we did the entire class's work in 15 minutes.

I don't really like maths, but the feeling of figuring out something by yourself by thinking about different ways of solving a problem is pretty awesome.

When I went to high school math was a complete bore, on top of that the instructors never took the time to really go in depth and allow us to understand why. Just memorize the shit basically.
On top of that he only did tests and homework, the homework was a joke he just checked it off to see if we tried to do the work. So i literally just rewrote the question as the answer for every question and i pasted the class that way.
It also does not help that I'm mathematically challenged.

I had to do that bullshit Problem Solving in a media/tech school, could compare it to hard-science maths mixed in with the mist difficult way of learning : constant "train x train y" questions of the dumbest things, it drove me near insane. There were some parts where they showed the beauty of math but those were additions at most, and the failure rate was 80%.
Good lord why can't they ask normal questions instead of making shit up that noone is ever going to ask you

That is so true. The word problems are the ones I despise the most.
The only time I've had fun with math was when I would program.

When I use math it's quite fun, But when I'm learning it I find it pretty boring.
And gosh it's been awhile since I read the Number Devil, All I remember about it is the cover and something about cocoanuts.

The widespread use of calculators and other computational aids are exactly [i]why[/i] focus needs to be on the why things relate the way they do instead of the rote how to crunch numbers.

I had to go to summer school for math 2 years in a row, even though I did great in all my other classes math is just one thing I didn't get. Then I hired a tutor that taught me how the shit actually works instead of placing me in front of a book, now I feel dumb for not figuring it out sooner. It's funny how easy things can turn out to be if you just see it with a different viewpoint.

Personally I've never really had problems in math and the teachers so far are pretty competent in explaining the various equations and why things are and stuff at my school.

Read half of it so far. Although he has a point, he's overreacting a bit (every single maths teacher has no real notion of mathematics), and the straw man argument makes it all a bit biased.
Also I doubt that someone studying 5 years of college-level maths wouldn't realize that it's more than just using (b^2-sqrt(D))/2a. He blames the teachers too much, instead of the curriculum/text books, which leads us to the politicians at the top who have no clue what they're actually doing and never stood before a classroom before.
Feynman hit the nail on the head in this fragment (and this handles about education in 1964!, seems not much has changed since then...)
[url]http://www.textbookleague.org/103feyn.htm[/url]

Math is not the only thing. Almost every subject in school is being taught in a boring way. Then people wonder why kids are bored to death.
It's kinda like working in a cubicle and then boss screams at you for working too slow. Then when your day ends you feel like you want to kill yourself.

[IMG]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/29215762/mindfuck.JPG[/IMG]
We gotta do shit like this in my math class at the moment. Its terrible, takes 20+mins to solve, only to realize its wrong at the end.
Even in programming, I doubt you would see something like that.
Id much prefer logic/analysis than doing this.

I suck at math like you wouldn't believe.
I would probably do so much better if my teachers didn't half ass it and decide to not teach during elementary/middle school.

I somewhat enjoyed math up until Alg II and Pre Calc, and then I started to hate it.
So, I decided not to take Calc I, and instead take AP Statistics. I enjoy it a lot more, mainly because I'll view something and undertand how I can use it.
Take the coefficient of determination for example. I could plug in how far students are from a school and how many are tardy, and figure out if their being further away correlates with being late. Stuff like that is fascinating. Being able to prove a correlation is really quite fun, and it helps me understand why the numbers work as they do.
My online math has a crap teacher, but the voice recorded aids are great because they always derive formulas.

I don't understand math at all. I cannot comprehend it, which is going to screw me over soon. Every time I've tried to re-learn something, my school doesn't even help out much. Whoever teaches me just ends up shitting on my maths grades by explaining things like this:
"and we just take that from that number and move that there and I'm not going to explain why because I'm a cunt and if you ask me why I'll just say 'because it is' or some dumb shit"
Anybody know a site where I can learn maths from the [b]very[/b] ground up?
[editline]29th October 2011[/editline]
And the other thing about my math class, we spend ages working from textbooks and if we get it wrong we don't have enough time to be taught why it was wrong and how to avoid being wrong again in future, which [i]also[/i] comes around to fuck everyone in the ass.

Honestly I can't agree with much of this. The guy seems to think that being "intuitively obvious" means we don't need any sort of technical definition of something. As a mathematical student in analysis I finally get that this is not true at all. Having an intuitive sense for something is very useful. It let me do fun and interesting things like deriving the formula for the average value of a function back when I was in precalc just because it was interesting to me. But the definitions allow you to give precision to your nebulous thoughts on things like smoothness. They've helped me to truly make real and exact all the things I felt like I knew but could never explain at a fundamental level. Intuition will only get you so far until real thought has to take over.
Not to mention I can't agree with his classification of math as an art no matter how much artistry I feel like something like proof-writing involves.

[QUOTE=geogzm;33028472]
Anybody know a site where I can learn maths from the [b]very[/b] ground up?
[/QUOTE]
Maybe [url]http://www.khanacademy.org/[/url] ?

Sorry, you need to Log In to post a reply to this thread.