Mathematics = Arithmetic

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The problems with mathematics education cannot be fixed untill the general public stops using these terms synonymously. Today the news (Good Morning America - ABC) reported an autistic savant who, although he is mentally disabled in many ways, could "solve complex mathematics". I was very interested untill I saw that "solving complex mathematics" meant to this network news outlet "multiplying large numbers mentally"!

Mathematics is the science of theorems. It is true that some theorems pertain to arithmetic, but this does not mean that arithmetic (the basics of which everyone agrees that everyone should learn) should be considered as part of mathematics any more so then writing is considered part of mathematics.

Arithmetic (including U.S pre-algebra) should be made its own subject, beginning and ending in elementary school, with no mention of mathematics being made (since the students are not doing any).

Synthetic and Analytic geometry, trigonometry and general precalculus should all be put under the heading "Computer Science", since that is exactly where the domain of application for these things begins and ends. By getting students to write a program to draw a circle we address their lack of motivation and sense of perceived uselessness of the material.

Calculus belongs to Physics, these subjects should be studied together as old classics for the same reason that literature is studied.

English should be correctly labeled "Literature and Creative Fiction", and rhetoric (as a means of persuasion) should be ridiculed.

All mention of critical thinking, expository writing (clarity of communication) and reasoning(logic) belongs to mathematics. Mathematical Calculation should take on the generalized meaning of writing out ideas clearly and carefully so as to infer conclusions.

In my opinion these things have not happened because:

1) The English department has too much power, and they don't want to lose their monopoly on "writing" (which belongs to math at least as much as does arithmetic).

2) The computer science department enjoys not being associated with algebra/precalculus, because they receive more funding and more students. Very few freshmen going into computer science realize they will be doing more of what they think of as math (precalculus) then will be the freshmen going in to mathematics.
 

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matt grime
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Synthetic and Analytic geometry, trigonometry and general precalculus should all be put under the heading "Computer Science", since that is exactly where the domain of application for these things begins and ends.
You're either joking, or, well, being deliberately provocative for no good reason, right?

Calculus belongs to Physics, these subjects should be studied together as old classics for the same reason that literature is studied.
Same comment applies.
 
Math Is Hard
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1) The English department has too much power, and they don't want to lose their monopoly on "writing" (which belongs to math at least as much as does arithmetic).
You'd better keep it down... English professors could be reading this right now and reporting back to their departments. Make too much noise, and they'll send some of the boys around to take care of you. :wink:
 
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HallsofIvy
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I'm going to take a deep breath, a strong drink, and not say a word!

I've already gotten into trouble for repeatedly pointing out that mathematics is not physics!
 
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It seems that some of what I said is objectionable, and I would like you all to make your objections clear, so that I can address them. I stand by everything I said, I am not trolling (but I am proud of that I drove Ivy to drink :).

I've already gotten into trouble for repeatedly pointing out that mathematics is not physics!
Does something in my post suggest that I think mathematics is physics?

In fact, I advocate seperating the two properly, that is by including the method of basic physics (freshman calculus) under the label "physics", so as not to confuse it with mathematics, the science of theorems.

I think that finding an antiderivative relates more closely, in concept and appplication, to finding the force/charge/mass etc. than to showing that a function is integrable if it is bounded and continuous. The former is arithmetic (studied for application), the latter is mathematics (studied for aesthetics).

Edit: Matt - I guess I could have said "direct domain of application", but I still think what I said was true and implore to share your reasons for disagreeing.
 
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DaveC426913
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The problems with mathematics education cannot be fixed untill the general public stops using these terms synonymously. Today the news (Good Morning America - ABC) reported an autistic savant who, although he is mentally disabled in many ways, could "solve complex mathematics".
Actually, I was going to say the problems with mathematics cannot be fixed until people stop looking to Good Morning America for their education.

Wait. They don't. :biggrin:
 
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matt grime
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You have said that you only wish for mathematics with application to the real world to be taught, and only in the context of its application to the real world. If you truly believe in what you said, that geometry should be taught only in computer science, because that is its only application, then you're missing the point of mathematics, not to mention seemingly being ignorant of some of its uses. Calculus (whatever you mean by it) certainly does not belong 'to physics', either as a subject in its own right, or as a subject to study for its own merits.

You complain that people are stereotyping mathematics unfairly as mere arithmetic, then go and make the same mistake yourself.
 
JasonRox
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You have said that you only wish for mathematics with application to the real world to be taught, and only in the context of its application to the real world. If you truly believe in what you said, that geometry should be taught only in computer science, because that is its only application, then you're missing the point of mathematics, not to mention seemingly being ignorant of some of its uses. Calculus (whatever you mean by it) certainly does not belong 'to physics', either as a subject in its own right, or as a subject to study for its own merits.

You complain that people are stereotyping mathematics unfairly as mere arithmetic, then go and make the same mistake yourself.
Well said, and I'm quoting it to be said again.
 
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Ah, a typical forum misread.

In my post when I say "no mention of mathematics", I am refering to (in the sentence) elementary school. Obviously, if we are to seperate mathematics and arithmetic, then we much teach arithmetic without making mention of mathematics! The kids in elementary school aren't ready to think they are doing math! Then they don't respect it!

Later I bring up mathematics as the science of theorems, teaching students to think, write and reason clearly as well as to read other's writings with depth. This subject is central (as English is now) to all students. This kind of (true) mathematics should be required and the "applications" math track be relegated to the Accounting/CS/Physics electives.
 
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Ah, a typical forum misread.

In my post when I say "no mention of mathematics", I am refering to (in the sentence) elementary school. Obviously, if we are to seperate mathematics and arithmetic, then we much teach arithmetic without making mention of mathematics! The kids in elementary school aren't ready to think they are doing math! Then they don't respect it!
I kinda agree with this. :approve:

Later I bring up mathematics as the science of theorems, teaching students to think, write and reason clearly as well as to read other's writings with depth. This subject is central (as English is now) to all students. This kind of (true) mathematics should be required and the "applications" math track be relegated to the Accounting/CS/Physics electives.
But, does that mean Applied Mathematics is not mathematics and should be thrown out of math departments worldwide? :grumpy: I think we need to strike the balance between pure and applied, and make it clear to the students that they need to have a fair amount of exposure to both to get a good appreciation of mathematics. Over concentration in either extreme is not a good idea.

I dread math books with tonnes of applications and calculations with formulas pop up from nowhere without proper proofs or at least the sketch of the ideas behind the theorems. But that is not to say that we completely ignore teaching applications to students and let the other department do the job.
 
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But that is not to say that we completely ignore teaching applications to students and let the other department do the job.
Take a slice of a calculus class: a cs major, a bio major, an econ major, a phys major and a math major.

The problem comes when we force these people to study calculus from each other's intended realm of application. For the science majors, this leads to a dislike of math, and for the math majors it leads to a dislike of applications.

That makes the case for not studying applications in the math department (i.e. students elect to take the applications they are interested in at the departments they are interested in). But I propose something stronger: that calculus (of real functions of a single real variable) no more belongs to the math department than to any of the others! They should all teach their own brand of calculus tailored to be relevant an interesting to their students, then people wouldn't dislike math so much.

Now the guards will call me away for taking on the calculus cash cow :smile:
 
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ill say what feynman said: physics is to maths what sex is to masturbation :)
 
but feynman was a physicist. he is supposed to be biased towards physics. :)
 
Gib Z
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Richard Feynman was an excellent physicist, and if he wasn't he would have been an excellent Number Theorist. One of the most profound people to ever live. But I would reverse that quote.
 
HallsofIvy
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It seems that some of what I said is objectionable, and I would like you all to make your objections clear, so that I can address them. I stand by everything I said, I am not trolling (but I am proud of that I drove Ivy to drink :).

Does something in my post suggest that I think mathematics is physics?
You said "Calculus belongs to Physics". Are you unaware that calculus is used in Biology, Economics, Meteorology, etc., etc.?
 
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You said "Calculus belongs to Physics". Are you unaware that calculus is used in Biology, Economics, Meteorology, etc., etc.?
Here is what I said three posts above this:

Take a slice of a calculus class: a cs major, a bio major, an econ major, a phys major and a math major.
And then I argue that calculus is no more a part of mathematics (mathematicians use it as a topic about which to prove theorems) then it (calculus) is a part of physics, bio, econ, meteorology, geology etc.
 
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And then I argue that calculus is no more a part of mathematics (mathematicians use it as a topic about which to prove theorems) then it (calculus) is a part of physics, bio, econ, meteorology, geology etc.
That's right! Also, writing shouldn't be taught by an English professor, because so many other people besides English professors write.

History should not be taught by historians, because history involves so many non-historians.

Phys. Ed. shouldn't be taught by athletes because so many non-athletes like to do sports.

Biology shouldn't be taught by biologists, because so many non-biologists use biology (on a daily basis, no less).
 
morphism
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And then I argue that calculus is no more a part of mathematics (mathematicians use it as a topic about which to prove theorems) then it (calculus) is a part of physics, bio, econ, meteorology, geology etc.
I think it is you who has no idea what mathematics is.
 
Hootenanny
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That's right! Also, writing shouldn't be taught by an English professor, because so many other people besides English professors write.

History should not be taught by historians, because history involves so many non-historians.

Phys. Ed. shouldn't be taught by athletes because so many non-athletes like to do sports.

Biology shouldn't be taught by biologists, because so many non-biologists use biology (on a daily basis, no less).
:rofl: I love this post, it gets my nomination for post of the year! :rofl:
 
matt grime
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Take a slice of a calculus class
IN AN AMERICAN UNIVERSITY:

a cs major, a bio major, an econ major, a phys major and a math major.

Don't judge the rest of us because of your education system.
 
matt grime
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Here is what I said three posts above this:



And then I argue that calculus is no more a part of mathematics (mathematicians use it as a topic about which to prove theorems) then it (calculus) is a part of physics, bio, econ, meteorology, geology etc.
You realize you're contradicting yourself, right?
 
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Calculus is part of maths end of story. Maths is a tool for most things ie a means to an end not an end itself, however people do use it as an end, ie proofs and theorems that at the moment have no practical application.
 
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We all agree that there is a vast amount of good mathematics that has been created that does not have applications (pure math).

Question: How do we justify indoctrinating intelligent hardworking people into the field of pure mathematics?

I think it is because the skill of mathematical writing and reading are amazing skills that can be applied by anyone to improve communications and reasoning in general. I emphasize the communication aspect of math, it teaches us to read slowly and carefully (a respect no one on this forum grants me) and to give instructions or reports more precisely.

This is what I am saying the math curriculum should be: a focus on the reading and writing of math, not the concepts (which are chosen for applicability). Sure concepts could be taught i.e. arithmetic, algebra, calculus but these are not good reasons motivating students to study pure mathematics.

Question: Why isn't Arithmetic its own seperate subject?

Answer: Because Arithmetic is used for examples and studied indirectly in many branches of pure mathematics, and studied directly in Number Theory.

Aren't these aspects of Arithmetic so removed from grade-school computational drills that we are justified in not including this subject under the header Math but instead "Arithmetic": its own subject with a well defined beginning and end. This would eliminate "what do we use this for?" questions because we are not confusing the students to think that the computational drills they are doing are anymore related to Math (claimed by a few to be interesting, currently a mystery to most) then would be their facility in drawing letters and diagrams.
 
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matt grime
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Q: how do you justify using the word indoctrinating?
 
Chris Hillman
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Confrontation as a rhetorical technique?

We all agree that there is a vast amount of good mathematics that has been created that does not have applications (pure math).
Yet. (Or that you yourself happen to know about.)

Question: How do we justify indoctrinating intelligent hardworking people into the field of pure mathematics?

I think it is because the skill of mathematical writing and reading are amazing skills that can be applied by anyone to improve communications and reasoning in general. I emphasize the communication aspect of math, it teaches us to read slowly and carefully (a respect no one on this forum grants me) and to give instructions or reports more precisely.

This is what I am saying the math curriculum should be: a focus on the reading and writing of math, not the concepts (which are chosen for applicability). Sure concepts could be taught i.e. arithmetic, algebra, calculus but these are not good reasons motivating students to study pure mathematics.
So, were you just absurdly overstating your real case in order to get attention? If your real point was that calculus (I'd add linear algebra) should be taught to EveryMan as part of the standard intellectual toolkit, as an essential amplification of previous reading and writing skills, then you'd probably find greater acceptance here of your thesis.

It seems to me that a more logical (and otherwise reasonable!) conclusion from your last two paragraphs quoted above would be that more students should be required to take calculus, and that writing skills should be emphasized more in calculus classes, to help students understand why they are being inducted into the mysteries of analysis. If so, when I was a graduate student at UW, there was quite a bit of interest in the Math Department and "client departments" in exploring this and many other "curricular reform" suggestions. Some of us TAs, on our own initiative, experimented with including writing assignments in our calculus sections.
 

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