Haim
Posts:
8,161
Registered:
12/6/04


Re: What Is Mathematics For?
Posted:
Apr 25, 2010 8:42 PM


Domenico Rosa Posted: Apr 25, 2010 9:35 AM
>The truly superb article, "What Is Mathematics For?," by >Underwood Duddley has been published in the May 2010 >issue of the AMS Notices. > >http://www.ams.org/notices/201005/rtx100500608p.pdf
It is always gratifying when an author cites truth, but this article is, on the whole, preposterous. Sad to say.
At first, I was thrilled to read Dudley's comments about the real, practical need for mathematics: quite minimal. But then, he goes on and on about how the learning of algebra trains the mind. This is the excuse made for every discipline that has few practical uses.
For example, for many years after Latin ceased being the lingua franca of scholarship and international relations, students were made to study latin because,
http://books.google.com/books?id=kblgelIEWc0C&pg=PA189&lpg=PA189&dq=latin+trains+mind&source=bl&ots=fthfvsV7je&sig=2c8NWNyTSUFwLArMp7tb62V1iQ&hl=en&ei=p9zUS7arO8WqlAez0oHtDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CAgQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=latin%20trains%20mind&f=false "Latin trains the mind to think in an orderly fashion"
and
http://www.memoriapress.com/articles/apologylatinmath.html "Latin and math develop the mind in ways other subjects do not."
One has only to spend a little time in a debate forum frequented by mathematicians and math educators to see the obvious inanity of this notion.
Dudley is at his most absurd when he asserts,
>The public wants more mathematics taught, to more >students. The requirements keep going up, never down. > >The reason for this, I am convinced, is that the public >knows, or senses, that mathematics develops the power to >reason.
Well, it may be perfectly true that (a) the public wants more mathematics taught, and (b) the public senses that mathematics develops the power to reason. But, "the public" believes all sorts of things that "ain't so".
Furthermore, I remain skeptical that "the public" really does want more mathematics taught. It is well known that people tend to give politically correct answers to poll takers, and the selfserving propaganda for the teaching of ever more mathematics has been relentless for decades.
Haim Keep The Change

