Why aren’t we giving our students a chance to even hear about these things, let alone giving them an opportunity to actually do some mathematics, and to come up with their own ideas, opinions, and reactions? What other subject is routinely taught without any mention of its history, philosophy, thematic development, aesthetic criteria, and current status? What other subject shuns its primary sources— beautiful works of art by some of the most creative minds in history— in favor of third-rate textbook bastardizations?
The full article is extremely long, but absolutely excellent. If you have the time, I would highly recommend reading (or skimming) A Mathematician’s Lament, by Paul Lockhart. Not everyone needs to love math, but we should all be concerned with the way it is presented in a classroom. After all, without at least some people being inspired to study mathematics, you guys are all screwed.
I bet that any number of high schoolers could destroy me in a competition to perform simple arithmetic, but ultimately what value is that to society? We can create calculators to perform calculus, but we can’t teach them to think like mathematicians. At some point, if we continue to neglect fostering an appreciation and curiosity for true mathematics, we only handicap our potential for future innovation.
Two beautiful mathematical documentaries are “Fermat’s Last Theorem” and “Dangerous Knowledge”. Both take a popular science style approach to describing compelling and emotional stories about great mathematicians.
Movie night! :)