Sunday, July 26, 2015

Redefining Math (still)

I find myself thinking a lot about redefining math, and posting things on this blog about that topic. Here, again, is a quote from a brilliant mathematician that forces us to rethink our idea of what “math” means.

I must include a paragraph from this article verbatim. Terry Tao, math prodigy.

That spring day in his office, reflecting on his career so far, Tao told me that his view of mathematics has utterly changed since childhood. “When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to be a mathematician, but I had no idea what that entailed,” he said in a lilting Australian accent. “I sort of imagined a committee would hand me problems to solve or something.” But it turned out that the work of real mathematicians bears little resemblance to the manipulations and memorization of the math student. Even those who experience great success through their college years may turn out not to have what it takes. The ancient art of mathematics, Tao has discovered, does not reward speed so much as patience, cunning and, perhaps most surprising of all, the sort of gift for collaboration and improvisation that characterizes the best jazz musicians. Tao now believes that his younger self, the prodigy who wowed the math world, wasn’t truly doing math at all. “It’s as if your only experience with music were practicing scales or learning music theory,” he said, looking into light pouring from his window. “I didn’t learn the deeper meaning of the subject until much later.” (p. 46, 7.26.15 NYTMag)

Read more here, and add this to the “How do we redefine mathematics in school?” pile.

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