Wednesday 19 June 2013

A Mathematician's Lament

Sorry it has been so long since I last wrote. Exam season is a very busy and stressful time for teachers as well as students! (Perhaps even more so). Now that the wonder of "release time" is upon us, I should be able to write more.

I stumbled upon a piece of writing called A Mathematician's Lament. I think it is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have ever read. As I was reading it, I found myself screaming (inside my head, I don't want to make a scene - I'm British remember) "that's exactly what I think!". It's like Paul Lockhart looked inside my head, stole my thoughts, and wrote them down but in a nicer order and with better punctuation.

I urge you to read it if you can spare the time. At least read page one. For those of you who really can't be bothered, here is a TL;DR summary for you:

*Mathematics is an art.

*Mathematics should be taught the same way that music and art are taught.

*Maths is not about acquiring skills that you might apply "one day".

*Much like music lovers have certain types of music they like and certain types they dislike, mathematicians can dislike some types of maths. It is a matter of taste.

*Maths is about imagination, you do not deal with real things because real things are inaccurate and messy; maths is simple and beautiful.

My favourite quote:

"there is nothing as dreamy and poetic, nothing as radical,
subversive, and psychedelic, as mathematics."

I have shared this with my department and I am considering sharing it with my students as well. I think it is especially important to share with year 11s who are looking to take A Level maths. Those students who have thought they were good at maths all these years because they got all the answers right might not realise that rote learning won't get them very far in A level.

Read the whole thing and then tell me what you think in the comments below.

Emma x x x

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