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Re[2]: where's the math? so?
Posted:
Apr 21, 1995 11:18 AM


_______________________________________________________________________________ Subject: Re: where's the math? so? From: roitman@oberon.math.ukans.edu at internet Date: 4/20/95 6:12 PM
>> >>Presumably everyone on this list has loved mathematics from a fairly young age. >>How many owe that love to a sense that there were modern mathematicians out there, >>tackling tough modern problems? >> >>Ted Alper >>alper@epgy.stanford.edu > >Nope, I didn't. I thought math = calculations (including algebraic) and >overly formalized proofs of uninteresting statements = uncreative and >dreary. Except for having run into the proof that the reals were >uncountable in George Gamow's 123 Infinity back in junior high... >
Seconded. I was always "good at math," but I hated it. My math classes were the most boring hours of my day. In high school, I skipped a year of math to be a TA for chemistry because I just couldn't stand to be bored like that anymore. I took calculus my senior year (skipping precalc), did fantastically well, and hated every minute of it.
Then I got to college. I retook calculus because I had slept through the AP exam so I didn't have any credit for it. I aced the class (one would hope so on the second time through), but more importantly, I met my first mathematician. My calculus prof. was an amazing man, truly excited about mathematics. When I went to office hours, he would give me harder problems to work on; he hadn't always worked them out first, so I got to see what it was like when a mathematician worked on mathematics. He would talk a little about his research, which I didn't understand at all. But I understood the excitement and intellectual challenge of it. He convinced me to keep taking math classes, even though I didn't need anything past calculus for my intended chemistry major.
Then I met this guy (now my husband) who was majoring in math. He talked about weird things. Set theory and logic and such. (Old topics, but interesting and mindblowing and engaging, and not part of the high school curriculum for some reason I can't understand.) His parents are both math professors, and he knew little bits about more advanced stuff. It wasn't that I could understand and dig into the work. It was the idea that there were new things being discovered. That's what had drawn me to science, the thought that I could find out something that no one ever knew before. But in math it was even better, because you could *prove* that you were right, not just test it out a bunch of times until you were pretty sure. I became a math major, then a math teacher, then a mathematics curriculum developer. I hope someday to be a mathematician, and to figure out something that none of you know yet. :)
michelle  Michelle Manes Education Development Center, Inc. michelle@edc.org



