Sunday, February 12, 2012

On Lockhart's Lament

When my choir teacher calls unapplied math boring, this dies in my throat.

When people ask me why I love math ("How can you?"), it stands, but is smothered by lack of self-awareness.

When one assumes that liking math is anomalous ("Oh, it's 'cause you're so good at it," is backwards) this rears up as emotion, but the lightning flash turns to a flicker through the walls of bad memories.

"Mathematics is the music of reason."


The beauty of proofs was that I could make the teacher do math--they couldn't say I was wrong because I was different. If something is true, it is so--I can prove it a half dozen ways, and be judged only on accuracy and clarity.

"A proof should be an epiphany from the Gods, not a coded message from the Pentagon."

Yes! It's a beautiful moment that makes everything stop because this is right, and you understand. That's the point--you proved it. One can discover a flaw, but none can harm a proof that is right. The proof is in the information: the writing may be smudged, torn, burned, ruined, but the idea remains untouched.

"Most mathematics is done with a friend over a cup of coffee, with a diagram scribbled on a napkin."

Yes! I've done math on my own or with friends, family, on whatever scraps I can find--paper, napkin, cloth, even on tabletops. And I've found nothing comparable to the shock of understanding, and of helping others understand.

Lockhart's Lament is worth reading if you have ever enjoyed math or hated math class or been frustrated by a math teacher. Read on!

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