To the Editor:
Not everyone wants to be an operations researcher within a corporate retail environment. Let’s face the facts: Linear-programming models can be excruciatingly dull to the scientific mind. It is possible to enjoy science and not employ think-tank-style mathematics for hypothesis problem-solving.
Sometimes mathematics just needs to be fun. Finding pivots or applying row operations to a matrix might be exciting to a handful of scientists and corporate people maximizing and minimizing profits, but it dulls the senses of those who wish to teach young people to enjoy math and science.
Endless formulas, row-reduced echelon methods, and countless problems in permutations, combinations, probability, and statistics choke the deterministic mind and clog the brain pathways of those who look for more elegant ways to express themselves. They rob the idealistic teacher of the joy of enlightening a blank slate with mathematical simplicity and physical-science elegance.
When we promote education reform, let’s also look at the teacher testing that stunts the enthusiasm of new educators with endless forward-backward proofs. If teachers before the testing already proclaim quod erat demonstrandum, leave them be.
Norm North Jr.
A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2007 edition of Education Week as Math Needs to Be Fun, And Taught With Zest