Q&A #4247


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

  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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