Tuesday, May 24, 2005

On math education

In a discussion of Nickels' Mathematics: Is God Silent?, I turned up this paragraph in the author's story of how the book came about:

I transferred to Fresno State College for my final two years. Although I still got As in every math class, my professors drilled me in dry formalism semester after semester. As the course material advanced beyond differential and integral calculus, it seemed like I had entered into an n dimensional domain of transcendent abstract analysis, aimed not at the Elysian fields of delight, but at the specter of the null and the void. These spiraling integrations into the void numbed and dizzied my mind. The phrase – integration into the void – was coined by the great 20th century Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til of whom we will hear more about later. I still managed, in 1973, to receive my undergraduate degree in mathematics (graduating summa cum laude – which proves that getting good grades does not mean that you have been properly educated). On graduation day I made an internal vow, “I will never open another math book again as long as I live.” Fortunately, I rescinded that vow some 5 years later. My response to four years of university training is a sad commentary on the state of university education then and, even more so, today.

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