Sunday 23 January 2011

Math Myths

Just read this on a blog by Dr Michael Taylor..Thought it ought to be printed out and placed on the wall of every math classroom (especially on Parent's night...."Well I'm not suprised he/she is doing poorly... I could never do math." )

Five of the most common math myths are:

1. The Genius Myth (that good mathematicians are born with special math talent and enormous left brains);
2. The Good Memory Myth (that good mathematicians have a phenomenal memory for formulas);
3. The Using-Tools-Is-Cheating Myth (that good mathematicians don’t use fingers, toes and calculators);
4. The Gender Myth (that good mathematicians are all men despite the abundance of female bio-statisticians);
5. The Who Needs it Anyway Myth (that math is useful only to mathematicians).

But the biggest myth of them all is the “I-Cant-Do-Math Myth”. I recently taught multivariate calculus to a class of non-mathematicians and social scientists. It wasn’t just them asking the question “why are we here”? But an open-mind is a powerful adversary. They soon dusted-off this myth in a matter of months. Yes, for some, math is like sorcery. We all have our superstitions to overcome. The good news is that we can. Arthur C Clarke who once said that, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. If that technology is born of math then however miraculous or foreboding it appears, we will learn to embrace it. Mathematics – to learn. Let’s face our fears, dispel the myths and advance. There are legends to be made.

Steven Colyer suggested two more that could be added to the "Math Myths"

7) Math is boring.

8) Mathematics is finished.

So what else should be on the list.. (and do NOT suggest (x+y)2 = x2 + y2)

1 comment:

Steven Colyer said...

Ah, but Sir Patrick, you left out the greatest myths of all:

7) Math is boring.

No it's not, unless the teacher is boring, being a set of teachers that obviously doesn't include you. This blog goes a long ways to dispelling that one.

8) Mathematics is finished.

Probably the greatest myth of all. If anything, it grows by leaps and bounds every year. In fact, I openly question when there will be more Mathematics to discover and solve than we will have Mathematicians to solve them. Are we there yet?