
Re: Fw: precise use of language
Posted:
May 26, 2000 2:57 PM


Jeff No flame intended. My point is that when math researchers talk about math, they do not use the stilted language commonly found in textbooks. Instead they use the vernacular. I think textbooks should be written in the vernacular so that students can begin communicating in language they understand rather than language they don't understand. Jerry
At 11:29 PM 0500 5/25/00, 112358etc wrote: >Without trying to provoke a flame war with Jerry, I would like to point >out that the answer to the lack of fundamental learning skills, be they >algebraic, logical or grammatical, is not to design a curriculum that >does not require such skills, it's to redesign the education curriculum >so that future teachers are required to actually understand algebra, >logic and grammar, and can pass those skills along to their students. >Otherwise, we end up with coloring books, "Dick and Jane" novels, and >blackbox tools for mathematics and science. (And yes, I suspect that >I can tell you how each and every component in every mechanical and >electronic device I own works at a fundamental level. And I probably have >a good idea about much of my software, too.) > >It would not be original on my part to point out that complicated sentences >and a broad vocabulary allow us to communicate subtleties of thought and >emotion. In fact, George Orwell made that point in his novel "1984", where >he described a society trained to speak only in a primer style language >called "Double Speak" precisely so that society would be handicapped in >any efforts to express discontent. > >Certainly, we could eschew complicated sentences and all of the linguistic >density that are commonly used in mathematics. Can you imagine students >being any more eager to read a thousand page math book that followed this >tack rather than a three hundred page math book that did not? Or any more >enthusiastic to watch a DVD video that used a thousand simple words every >time three hundred more thoughtfully chosen and organized ones would suffice? >Even if one were to only teach mathematical topics that could be introduced >in the service of some real world application, always supported with exciting >graphics and demonstrations, at some point, students would have to deal with >sophisticated ideas in sophisticated language. Short of using mathematica as >a blackbox or showing videos of what could just as easily be >physically inaccurate >movie special effects, just how does one talk about phonons and >lattice vibrations, >a boseeinstein condensate, or the structure of the set of optimal >solutions to an >airline scheduling problem? Draw a picture? Do we go back to >saying and writing >"The product of three with the number that when ten is raised gives >the answer to >the division problem of the distance around a round race track to >the distance across >the middle of the race track," or do we need a video to convey this >concept, or do >we accept the denser 19th century language and notation of "3 log(pi)" ? I am >certainly not advocating a return to a curriculum taught in Latin, >but the notion that >we should never expect our students to rise from whatever level of >communication >they find most comfortable, no matter how inchoate, is to me of >complete abandon >ment of all that resembles a liberal education. > >Jeff Stuart >Department of Mathematics >University of Southern Mississippi >Hattiesburg, MS 394065045 > >Original Message >From: Jerry Uhl <juhl@NCSA.UIUC.EDU> >To: 112358etc <112358etc@email.msn.com>; Ted Stanford <stanford@usna.edu> >Cc: calcreform@emath.ams.org <calcreform@emath.ams.org> >Date: Thursday, May 25, 2000 1:25 PM >Subject: Re: precise use of language > > >On the same theme, Ralph Boas wrote in 1980: >"Authors of textbooks need to remember that they are supposed to be >addressing students, not the teachers... >Contemporary prose style is simpler and more direct than the style of >the 19th century except in textbooks of mathematics. ....I blame the >authors of textbooks for not realizing that contemporary students >speak a different language." > >Jerry Uhl > > > >Jerry Uhl juhl@ncsa.uiuc.edu >Professor of Mathematics, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign >Member, Mathematical Sciences Education Board of National Research >Council >Calculus&Mathematica, Vector Calculus&Mathematica, >DiffEq&Mathematica, Matrices,Geometry&Mathematica, NetMath > > > > > > >HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE > > To UNSUBSCRIBE from the calcreform mailing list, > send mail to: > > majordomo@ams.org > > with the following in the message body: > > unsubscribe calcreform your_email_address > > >Information on the subject line is disregarded.
  Jerry Uhl juhl@ncsa.uiuc.edu Professor of Mathematics, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign Member, Mathematical Sciences Education Board of National Research Council Calculus&Mathematica, Vector Calculus&Mathematica, DiffEq&Mathematica, Matrices,Geometry&Mathematica, NetMath
http://wwwcm.math.uiuc.edu , http://netmath.math.uiuc.edu, and http://matheverywhere.com
"Is it life, I ask, is it even prudence, To bore thyself and bore the students?"
. . . Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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