The Most Useful Algebra Lesson Of All

I first encountered algebra in the sixth grade. Numbers disappeared–or at least, were consigned to secondary importance–and letters, mysterious ones like x, y, z, took center stage.  A mathematical expression called the ‘equation’–an incomprehensible sentence underwritten by an esoteric grammar–emerged on my intellectual horizon. (Strictly speaking, my teachers were rigorous enough to call these things ‘linearContinue reading “The Most Useful Algebra Lesson Of All”

The Abiding ‘Mystery’ of Calculus

I first encountered calculus in the eleventh grade. A mysterious symbol had made an appearance in my physics text–in the section on dynamics–as we studied displacement, velocity and acceleration. What was this ds/dt thing anyway? I had, at that point in time, never studied calculus of any variety; to suddenly encounter a derivative was toContinue reading “The Abiding ‘Mystery’ of Calculus”

Manil Suri on the Beauty and Beguilement of Mathematics

Manil Suri has an interesting Op-Ed on math–How To Fall In Love with Math–in The New York Times today. As befitting someone who is both a mathematician and a novelist, there are passages of writing in it that are both elegant and mathematically sound. The examples he provides of mathematical beauty–the natural numbers, n-sided regularContinue reading “Manil Suri on the Beauty and Beguilement of Mathematics”

Andrew Hacker on the Supposed Superfluousness of Algebra

An Op-Ed titled ‘Is Algebra necessary’ is bound to provoke reaction. So, here I am, reacting to Andrew Hacker’s anti-algebra screed (New York Times, July 29th, 2012). It is a strange argument, one unsure of what it is attacking–mandatory math education, elementary algebra, higher algebra?–and one founded on an extremely dubious premise: that the wayContinue reading “Andrew Hacker on the Supposed Superfluousness of Algebra”