Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Fish fish fish fish fish fish

For a while now I've been wanting to learn maths. Or rather, I want to learn to think mathematically. I did fine in maths at school but I find that I just cannot think mathematically. I can just about apply the mathematical techniques I was taught at school as long as I have a pen and paper handy, but I'm forgetting a lot of those techniques, and I am therefore becoming increasingly numerically challenged as time wears on.

I felt particularly inspired to learn how to think mathematically after reading A Mathematician's Lament, in which a mathematician by the name of Paul Lockheart argues that teaching children mathematical methods before allowing them to develop mathematical proofs is like teaching children about the names of colours before letting them paint with them. The reason why many people leave school with few numeracy skills even though they may have passed their exams is that we are not being trained in how to think mathematically. We don't have any relationship with numbers and shapes or any desire to puzzle over them.

So I'm incredibly relieved that someone seems to be setting up a blog with the New York Times teaching maths to adults from pre-school level up. "It’s not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it."

The only problem might be, as my physicist boyfriend points out, that maths need to be taught with riddles. You can't just write about it in a blog and thereby give people a new understanding of mathematical thinking. You have to challenge them to create mathematical proofs for themselves.

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