Monday, August 2, 2010

Math: Why Learn Math Now?

Welcome to Monday's new topic: Mathematics.

So you were never good at math and you don't think it's important to start learning it now. After all you've made it so far without knowing it or understanding math so why bother?

There are any number of reasons to bother. Steve Yegge has a few reasons that drew him back to learn more math. Back in 2004 he wrote Math Every Day where he wrote about his conclusion that math is important and getting better at it is useful and important.

His arguments may not convince you that you should revisit math and become more competent at it. You may already know that you 'should' learn more math.

What Steve doesn't cover is how to accomplish this. So while he may convince you math is important he only points out that he went and bought a bunch of math books. I don't know the best way to learn math either. I do know there is a resource available that Steve didn't have back in 2004. I wrote about the Khan Academy already. If working through books isn't your style then maybe the Academy can help.


Lene Andersen said...

Ow. Owowow. You're going to start my week with MATH?

Well, better to get it over with and move on, I guess. ;)

David Govoni said...

Well then you'll have to start your week on a Tuesday. I don't think that will be a problem. Do you?

LynnM said...

Lakoff and Nunez "Where Mathematics Comes From" is staring down at me, as I type. A friend recommended it a year ago April and it's been on my perpetual "to-do" list since. If you have an interest in history/philosophy of math and don't mind smut, check out David Berlinski's stuff. The two books of his I read made me laugh out loud (but I'm not a militant feminist. The guy is/or acts like/is a lech--mingled among the equations.)

David Govoni said...


I don't mind smut at all. I think it should be encouraged. Especially in unexpected places such as math books.

The math I'm missing begins with calculus. One of these days I'm going to hunker down and put my mind to it and wrap my mind around calculus. Eventually. It's not high up on my list yet. Too many items on the ever expanding todo list. And I certainly don't want to stop plugging away at this website to give me time to embrace calculus.

LynnM said...

Then I'd say have some fun with this.

sharon said...

Math is a boon and learning is always fun if taken in the right spirit. Nowadays, children are very likely to avoid especially math. I don’t understand why they do so. Besides parents, online tutors are best persons to encourage students to give attention to such subjects. There are several online tutoring services available to help students across grades for a very nominal cost. Some of them specialize in math, for instance, Students with difficulties in math or science can try it.

David Govoni said...

One of the problems with math education (heck with education in general) is how dry and useless much of the teaching is. I was doubly lucky. I had a knack for math (at least until I hit calculus) and I had great teachers who helped me understand how to apply math and the power it has (until I hit calculus).

The result is that math is not just fun it's easy. It makes sense. It clicks. And it doesn't scare me at all. For myself I'm tempted to dig into much older textbooks and see how they approached math and how it used to be taught. Luckily google books and other sources have any number of old textbooks available online.

LynnM said...

You know why it's useless? Because too many kids are expected to learn stuff they don't need or enjoy--so by definition it IS useless. Require less! Let kids elect it. Electives are fun. And frankly calc for HS kids IS useless. Better focus on statistics and how bankers are gamblers. Seriously. There's been a move away from careful accounting to high-powered Emperor's New Clothes magical "math-y" manipulation, which is NOT math at all.

BTW, I heard an NPR story a while back that mentioned the best way to get kids to understand the need/use of algebra was to show them how spreadsheets work.