Sunday, March 6, 2016

Maths Gets a Bad Rap

I've spent my entire professional career trying to bring math to life for my students; to make it meaningful, personally significant, interesting and even inspiring. I like to think that those students and teachers I have worked with have seen the light to some extent or another and have gone on to share with others the wonderful sense of accomplishment one gets from understanding and remembering anything mathematical.

Sadly, it's been an uphill battle primarily because of how our culture in general sees maths. I am an avid crossword puzzler and have lost count of the number of clues than denigrate maths. Clues like "division word" (into) are fairly harmless but then there are some that are completely wrong like the clue "Number indivisible by two". The answer is "odd" but it is so mathematically incorrect as to create the false impression that you cannot divide any odd number by 2. To make it accurate it should be "Number indivisible by two giving a whole number" or something similar. Every number is divisible by 2.

But probably more troubling is the clue in a crossword puzzle I completed a few days ago: "Member of  the math club probably". The troubling answer was "nerd" which is indicative of how people in general  tend to see people who are interested in math.THIS IS SO COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.
As long as we hold on to this view of math as being calculations, arithmetic and tedium nothing is ever going to change. Only when people start to embrace the beauty of fractal relationships, number patterns such as Fibonacci and Lucas numbers as well as the joys of geometric thinking will there be any change in the way we approach maths. I fear this will not happen in my lifetime, if ever,

I've been at meetings where. when the topic of math was raised, there was, sadly, an audible groan.

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