Lockhart’s Lament

by paddyjackson

spiral.jpgI have to thank Philip Wadler for spotting the Lockharts Lament article!

If you are worried about how mathematics is being taught today then read the following article Lockharts Lament. The first few pages describe the problem perfectly. Our education system is being designed by people who have little or no understanding of the task at hand.

Perhaps mathematicians are being arrogant and calling what they do an art. I personally think it’s as much an art as painting, sculpture or poetry. Its quite sad that Wikipedia doesn’t have mathematics listed as an art. Surely there is nothing more expressive than mathematics. Have a look at some of the images here. Anyone with a little mathematics and a lot of people with no mathematics will find these images beautiful.

If art has anything to do with expression then for some there can be nothing more expressive than an equation. Mathematics is fundamentally about describing the world around us and more besides. Physicists use mathematics to as a tool to understand the world around us. This practical applications does not mean that it’s not an art. Ask a physicists if they consider mathematics to be an art and I would bet that most think it is. The E=mc2.jpgmost famous equation today is E=MC^2. The beauty in this is astonishing but its not the most beautiful equations to some, F=MA may be more beautiful depending on your point of view. The fact that these equations are of huge practical importance seems to make some think that mathematics is not an art but merely a tool. Mr Lockhart’s article puts it well

“Music can lead armies into battle, but that’s not why people     write symphonies.”

The sooner we start treating mathematics more like an art and making it interesting the better, until that day almost every student being churned through our education system will hate the watered down shadow of a system our educators deem to call mathematics.

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