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Topic: Slightly OT : I hate math
Replies: 18   Last Post: Feb 6, 2010 11:52 PM

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Herman Rubin

Posts: 399
Registered: 2/4/10
Re: Slightly OT : I hate math
Posted: Feb 5, 2010 10:39 AM
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On 2010-02-04, Ken Pledger <> wrote:
> In article
> junoexpress <> wrote:

>> At social gatherings when people ask what you do, if you say
>> mathematics, they'll often respond that they hate math or were
>> terrible at in school, etc. Kind of a rude response I think, as I
>> wouldn't come out and so openly diss someone's profession like that.
>> And somewhat of a humorous response, since few people would think to
>> confess that they were bad at English or could barely read or put
>> together a coherent sentence, and yet they so gleefully volunteer that
>> they are bad at math. I'm curious how people who do math respond to
>> those types of comments....

> The popular attitude is perfectly understandable. So many people
> were forced into badly run school mathematics classes when they were
> young, that anything other than widespread hatred of the subject would
> be a miracle. The solution is blindingly simple, but I know it will
> horrify many people in this news group: stop making mathematics
> compulsory in high schools.

> As for the social situations, I doubt if it's possible to give a
> serious answer in a short time. My standard ploy is to grin and say,
> "Well, if everyone was good at it then I'd be out of a job." That's not
> true, of course, but it rescues people from feeling threatened (or
> disliking me).

> Ken Pledger.

Mathematics is badly taught at all levels, especially the
elementary and high school levels. Decades ago, it was
recognized that the only "real mathematics" course below
the advanced levels was the "Euclid" course in high school.

Alas, this course is not even available to all. Mathematics
does consist of facts and proofs, but the most important part
is the CONCEPTS. For the non-mathematician, this is essentially
the important part; it is necessary for the layman to know what
numbers "mean", and what the operations mean. Someone who knows
this, and can enter characters correctly, can get the results
form a calculator. Someone who knows how to carry out manually
the operations may do the wrong ones.

Similarly, the engineer needs to understand what a derivative
and integral mean, not how to calculate them. With this, he
can formulate his differential equations correctly, and not
restrict them to those he knows how to solve.

Those who pooh-pooh mathematical concepts are rendered unable
to understand the self-enforcing laws of nature, and keep
trying to force people to do what often should not even be
given any consideration.

This address is for information only. I do not claim that these views
are those of the Statistics Department or of Purdue University.
Herman Rubin, Department of Statistics, Purdue University Phone: (765)494-6054 FAX: (765)494-0558

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