### 16.2.07

## on mathematics education

Let us suppose that one who is ignorant of the first principles of algebra and geometry, has chanced to light upon a book which treats of any mathematical science What conception can he form of the nature of the information which lays open to his sight? what opinion as to its general utility? what conclusion upon the question whether it would he desirable for him to commence the study? none whatever. The page which lies before him is filled with characters repulsive in their appearance, and conveying no meaning to one not previously acquainted with them. They are in fact to him, a foreign language, a system of hieroglyphics, which there is no more probability of his being able to decipher, than of his reading at first sight, the language of an Arab or Chinese Under these circumstances many have left the subject with an ignorant contempt for what was to them useless and unintelligible, many with an equally ignorant admiration for those who could fathom what appeared so profound and incomprehensible

The idea that any nice, sympathetic woman can, without further thought, teach children to 'understand' arithmetic is just plain foolish.

Young doctors in mathematics, anxiously seeking positions in which their training and talents may have some play, often ask whether it is possible for a man to do elementary teaching for long and keep alive mathematically. It is. The life of Boole is a partial answer; the career of Weierstrass, the prince of analysts, 'the father of modern analysis', is conclusive.

The only way with a maths master is to hav a very worried xpression. Stare at the book intently with a deep frown as if furious that you cannot see the answer. at the same time scratch the head with the end of the pen. After 5 minits it is not safe to do nothing any longer. Brush away all the objects which hav fallen out of the hair and put up hand.

"Sir?" (whisper)

"Please sir?" (louder)

"Yes, molesworth?" sa maths master. (Thinks: it is that utter worm agane chiz)

"Sir i don't quite see this"

nb it is esential to sa you don't quite 'see' sum as this means that you are temporarily bafled by unruly equation and not that you don't kno the fanetest about any of it [Dialog continue:]

"What do you not see molesworth?" (Thinks: a worthy dolt who is making an honest efort)

"number six sir i can't make it out sir."

"What can you not make out molesworth?"

"number six sir."

"it is all very simple molesworth if you had been paing attention to what i was saing at the beginning of the lesson. Go back to your desk and think."

This gets a boy nowhere but it show he is KEEN which is important with maths masters.

Maths masters do not like neck of any kind and canot stand the casual approach.

HOW NOT TO APPROACH A MATHS MASTER

"Sir?"

"Sir sir please?"

"Sir sir please sir?"

"Sir sir please sir please?"

"Yes molesworth?"

"I simply haven't the fogiest about number six sir."

"Indeed, molesworth?"

"It's just a jumble of letters sir i mean i kno i couldn't care less whether i get it right or not but what sort of an ass sir can hav written this book."

(Maths master give below of rage and tear across the room with dividers. He hurl me three times round head and then out of the window.)

The idea that any nice, sympathetic woman can, without further thought, teach children to 'understand' arithmetic is just plain foolish.

Young doctors in mathematics, anxiously seeking positions in which their training and talents may have some play, often ask whether it is possible for a man to do elementary teaching for long and keep alive mathematically. It is. The life of Boole is a partial answer; the career of Weierstrass, the prince of analysts, 'the father of modern analysis', is conclusive.

The only way with a maths master is to hav a very worried xpression. Stare at the book intently with a deep frown as if furious that you cannot see the answer. at the same time scratch the head with the end of the pen. After 5 minits it is not safe to do nothing any longer. Brush away all the objects which hav fallen out of the hair and put up hand.

"Sir?" (whisper)

"Please sir?" (louder)

"Yes, molesworth?" sa maths master. (Thinks: it is that utter worm agane chiz)

"Sir i don't quite see this"

nb it is esential to sa you don't quite 'see' sum as this means that you are temporarily bafled by unruly equation and not that you don't kno the fanetest about any of it [Dialog continue:]

"What do you not see molesworth?" (Thinks: a worthy dolt who is making an honest efort)

"number six sir i can't make it out sir."

"What can you not make out molesworth?"

"number six sir."

"it is all very simple molesworth if you had been paing attention to what i was saing at the beginning of the lesson. Go back to your desk and think."

This gets a boy nowhere but it show he is KEEN which is important with maths masters.

Maths masters do not like neck of any kind and canot stand the casual approach.

HOW NOT TO APPROACH A MATHS MASTER

"Sir?"

"Sir sir please?"

"Sir sir please sir?"

"Sir sir please sir please?"

"Yes molesworth?"

"I simply haven't the fogiest about number six sir."

"Indeed, molesworth?"

"It's just a jumble of letters sir i mean i kno i couldn't care less whether i get it right or not but what sort of an ass sir can hav written this book."

(Maths master give below of rage and tear across the room with dividers. He hurl me three times round head and then out of the window.)

Comments:

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I suspect that first passage was written about a hundred years before I was born, but I further suspect that the writer had a premonition of me.

On the other hand, I can read a few Arabic letters, a few tens of Chinese characters, and algebra still looks like a repulsive mess to me. Don't think I haven't tried to fix this, either. X-P

On the other hand, I can read a few Arabic letters, a few tens of Chinese characters, and algebra still looks like a repulsive mess to me. Don't think I haven't tried to fix this, either. X-P

i think part of the point is that you have to understand algebra

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*before*you can understand the language used to talk about algebra.<< Home