Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lockharts Lament

Lockhart's Lament was recently /.'d and is a really good read about one person's thoughts of where mathematics has diverged from being an art to a science (yes you read that correctly, was an art form now a science). It was interesting to read how a classroom could be transformed from a fact finding mission to a place focusing on the development of ideas, more akin to a history and art class than as a science. I've read a few different variations on the same theme, but this is one of the better ones.

It would be funny (thinking of pure maths as an art form) if there wasn't some truth in it. True creativity and inspiration is at the heart of any discovery. On the other hand, if I was hiring people to build a bridge or a skyscraper I'd want a person doing it that had been drilled in maths and understood how to apply it rather than some introspective, dreamy, philosophy driven hippy. The approach suggested infers putting even more language in mathematics, running the risk of removing maths even further from those students that find it a refuge from humanities based subjects.

There's nothing stopping us implementing or re-introducing some of the ideas in the article into the curriculum. I'm always looking for ways to reinvigorate my classes and this may be one! I would though be wary of any approach that took more maths out of mathematics. After all, we don't all have the genius to discover maths the way of Gallileo, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Newton and Leibniz... but like the writer I can appreciate and revere the simplicity and elegance of their findings.

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