Paul Lockhart A mathematician's lament

<p>This is an excerpt from paul lockhart's essay. It is about the state of math education in today's society. Here is his background on what he thinks the school curriculum is </p>

<pre><code> The Standard Mathematics Curriculum
</code></pre>

<p>LOWER SCHOOL MATH. The indoctrination begins. Students learn that mathematics is not
something you do, but something that is done to you. Emphasis is placed on sitting still, filling
out worksheets, and following directions. Children are expected to master a complex set of
algorithms for manipulating Hindi symbols, unrelated to any real desire or curiosity on their part,
and regarded only a few centuries ago as too difficult for the average adult. Multiplication tables
are stressed, as are parents, teachers, and the kids themselves.
MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH. Students are taught to view mathematics as a set of procedures,
akin to religious rites, which are eternal and set in stone. The holy tablets, or “Math Books,” are
handed out, and the students learn to address the church elders as “they” (as in “What do they
want here? Do they want me to divide?”) Contrived and artificial “word problems” will be
introduced in order to make the mindless drudgery of arithmetic seem enjoyable by comparison.
Students will be tested on a wide array of unnecessary technical terms, such as ‘whole number’
and ‘proper fraction,’ without the slightest rationale for making such distinctions. Excellent
preparation for Algebra I.
ALGEBRA I. So as not to waste valuable time thinking about numbers and their patterns, this
course instead focuses on symbols and rules for their manipulation. The smooth narrative thread
that leads from ancient Mesopotamian tablet problems to the high art of the Renaissance
algebraists is discarded in favor of a disturbingly fractured, post-modern retelling with no
characters, plot, or theme. The insistence that all numbers and expressions be put into various
standard forms will provide additional confusion as to the meaning of identity and equality.
Students must also memorize the quadratic formula for some reason.
GEOMETRY. Isolated from the rest of the curriculum, this course will raise the hopes of
students who wish to engage in meaningful mathematical activity, and then dash them. Clumsy
and distracting notation will be introduced, and no pains will be spared to make the simple seem
complicated. This goal of this course is to eradicate any last remaining vestiges of natural
mathematical intuition, in preparation for Algebra II.
ALGEBRA II. The subject of this course is the unmotivated and inappropriate use of coordinate
geometry. Conic sections are introduced in a coordinate framework so as to avoid the aesthetic
simplicity of cones and their sections. Students will learn to rewrite quadratic forms in a variety
of standard formats for no reason whatsoever. Exponential and logarithmic functions are also
introduced in Algebra II, despite not being algebraic objects, simply because they have to be
stuck in somewhere, apparently. The name of the course is chosen to reinforce the ladder
mythology. Why Geometry occurs in between Algebra I and its sequel remains a mystery.
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TRIGONOMETRY. Two weeks of content are stretched to semester length by masturbatory
definitional runarounds. Truly interesting and beautiful phenomena, such as the way the sides of
a triangle depend on its angles, will be given the same emphasis as irrelevant abbreviations and
obsolete notational conventions, in order to prevent students from forming any clear idea as to
what the subject is about. Students will learn such mnemonic devices as “SohCahToa” and “All
Students Take Calculus” in lieu of developing a natural intuitive feeling for orientation and
symmetry. The measurement of triangles will be discussed without mention of the
transcendental nature of the trigonometric functions, or the consequent linguistic and
philosophical problems inherent in making such measurements. Calculator required, so as to
further blur these issues.
PRE-CALCULUS. A senseless bouillabaisse of disconnected topics. Mostly a half-baked
attempt to introduce late nineteenth-century analytic methods into settings where they are neither
necessary nor helpful. Technical definitions of ‘limits’ and ‘continuity’ are presented in order to
obscure the intuitively clear notion of smooth change. As the name suggests, this course
prepares the student for Calculus, where the final phase in the systematic obfuscation of any
natural ideas related to shape and motion will be completed.
CALCULUS. This course will explore the mathematics of motion, and the best ways to bury it
under a mountain of unnecessary formalism. Despite being an introduction to both the
differential and integral calculus, the simple and profound ideas of Newton and Leibniz will be
discarded in favor of the more sophisticated function-based approach developed as a response to
various analytic crises which do not really apply in this setting, and which will of course not be
mentioned. To be taken again in college, verbatim.</p>

<p>Do you agree that math is the most poorly taught subject in school. Do you agree that math education in school sucks the life out of REAL MATHEMATICS. If so please reply below</p>