Feb 2 2000

Another rainy day in Germany…

Just the right weather to start working on the essay I have to write for the uni (due on March 31st, 2000). It’s about why students should learn mathematics. The professor suggested the subject to me because I’m going to be a math (and physics) teacher. He used to be a teacher, too, but taught German, history and philosophy, I believe. He seems to think that it is comparatively easy to justify these subjects…

The first things that come to mind when you think of maths are practical things like adding or comparing prices, measuring etc.. Some people say math helps you to learn logic, reasoning, rational thinking, but my prof says you could teach chess instead of math to reach the same goal.

Besides all the above reasons, he is looking for (in fact, he wants me to look for) the ultimate reason for math being a part of education. What is the special thing about math worth knowing or being able to do that no other subject teaches?

Sigh. I hope I’ll be able to find out.

Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions or literature on the subject is very welcome!

Es regnet mal wieder in Deutschland…

Genau das richtige Wetter, um sich Gedanken über die Hausarbeit zu machen, die ich bis zum 31. März 2000 für die Uni schreiben muß. Das Thema ist die Frage, warum Schüler Mathematik lernen sollen. Der Professer schlug mir das Thema vor, weil ich Mathe- (und Physik-)lehrer werde. Er war auch mal Lehrer, aber für Deutsch, Geschichte und Philosophie, glaube ich. Scheinbar ist er der Auffassung, daß diese Fächer leichter zu rechtfertigen sind…

Die ersten Dinge, die einem zur Mathematik einfallen, sind praktische wie Preisvergleich im Supermarkt, Vermessen von Räumen und Berechnen der Quadratmeterzahl etc.. Einige Leute sagen auch, Mathematik schule das logische Denken, aber mein Prof entgegnet darauf, daß man dann genausogut Schach unterrichten könnte.

Neben all diesen praktischen Gründen sucht er (bzw. erwartet er von mir, daß ich suche) nach der letzten Begründung, warum Mathematik zur Bildung gehört. Was ist die spezielle Eigenschaft der Mathematik, die es sich lohnt zu kennen, oder die von der Mathematik vermittelte Fähigkeit, die man beherrschen sollte, die von keinem anderen Fach vermittelt werden kann?

Ich hoffe, daß ich es herausfinden werde…

Alle Gedanken, Ideen, Literaturvorschläge zum Thema sind sehr willkommen!

5 thoughts on “Feb 2 2000

  1. kris

    just consult any search engine for “+mathematics +sexy”. there have been a lot of articles on thes topics (Mathematiik ist sexy/der neue Roch’n’Roll/[insert your favourite phrase here]) in german magazins. probably in other countries too.

    just a few pointers:

    • theory of everything
    • the elegant universe
    • superstrings

    okay, most sounds like physics, but this stuff is highly mathematical.

    another thing: math is not calculating. its not comparing prices and such. it is creative freedom, it is intellectual power, it is elegance, it is philosophy… just like jazz.

    metaphorically speaking, a good mathematician isa bit like mister wolf out of pulp fiction: someone who solves a given problem.

    i’m not kidding,

    this message complies to the rules of
    dogma 2000

  2. kris

    saying that mathematic is the new r’n’n is complete bollocks. of course. does anyone remember 1994? in 94 in germany the new r’n’r was techno. btw, at this time in england the new r’n’r was standup comedy.

    anyway, “math=r’n’r” is currently a popular catch phrase. it’s came up by unimaginative writers dealing with some pop cultural books by young scientists (mentioned in my previous post) about physical phenomenons best described as “world formula”.

    last november or december there was a piece about sexiness and maths in the Zeit-Magazin (or somewhere else). i guess, there were more articles dealing with the fascination of these topics. in my opinion this is the point get GOOD inspirations for your essay and not in 5 kg books.


    this message complies to the rules of
    dogma 2000

  3. gary thomson

    OK Andea I have read through all your messages now, and understand a bit more about why your essay was set.

    Now that I think about it I am more inclined to go along with a practical, utilitarian approach à la Napoleon, and don’t dig the fancy, metaphysical answers.

    But how about these:

    “Mathematics is, I believe, the chief source of the belief in eternal and exact truth, as well as in a super-sensible intelligible world”

    Bertrand Russell

    God is a Geometer Plato

    God is addicted to Arithmetic Sir James Jeans

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