Q&A #4247


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From: Pat Ballew (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Jul 03, 2000 at 16:10:34
Subject: Re: Mathematicians

Toni, You have asked a question without answer, or perhaps with many answers. To understand what a mathematician does, one would have to be able to define what math is, and then perhaps we could coyishly answer, "a mathematician is one who does mathematics." Although there is, in my opinion, no answer, the question is still worth pursuing, especially by students and teachers. As a beginnning point, I would encourage you to get a copy of "THE MATHEMATICAL EXPERIENCE" by Davis and Hersch. Read it, then share the questions and ideas with your students... What is mathematics???? Is solving 3x-6=10 mathematics? And along the way, I think you will find it is necessary to discover who mathematicians are (were) and what they have done to find the answer you seek..... For myself, I often fall back on a quote from a recent mathematician and writer, Lynn Stein, who said "Mathematics is the science of pattern". For me, that is what I mostly think of mathematicians as doing, from Pythagoreas to Paul Erdos, we look for patterns. I don't know any web sites for this kind of thing, but any good math history book would be a good supplement to the reading above. Good luck, and if you come up with an answer, write back to share with us. -Pat Ballew

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