A Mathematician’s Lament (Paul Lockhart)

  • By concentrating on what, and leaving out the why, mathematics is reduced to an empty shell.
  • But if your Math teacher gives you the impression that mathematics is about formulas and definitions, and memorizing algorithms, who will set you straight?
  • …after being told they were “good at math”, that in fact they have no real mathematical talent and are just very good at following directions.
  • Mathematics should be taught as art for art’s sake.
  • School boards do not understand what mathematics is; neither do educators, textbook authors, publishing companies, and sadly, neither do most of our math teachers.
  • Attempts to present mathematics as relevant to daily life inevitably appear forced and contrived…People enjoy fantasy, and that’s just what math can provide.  An anodyne to the practical workday world.
  • Circles:  Which is more interesting, using a formula someone handed you without explanation, or hearing the story of one of the most beautiful, fascinating problems, and one of the most brilliant and powerful ideas in human history?
  • So put away your lesson plans and overhead projectors, your full-color textbook abominations, your CD-ROMs and the whole rest of the traveling circus freak show of contemporary education, and simply do mathematics with the students!
  • Would you accept as an art teacher someone who has never picked up a pencil or stepped foot in a museum? Why is it that we accept math teachers who have never produced an original piece of mathematics, …nothing in fact beyond what they are expected to present to their unfortunate students? What kind of a teacher is that? How can someone teach something that they themselves don’t do?
  • It may be true that you have to be able to read in order to fill out forms at the DMV, but that’s not why we teach children to read.

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