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What is mathematics for?

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A while back, Underwood Dudley wrote this essay in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.  His main point (which many may well disagree with) is that mathematics is very seldom useful in the workplace.  His concluding paragraph summarizes his argument:

What mathematics education is for is not for jobs. It is to teach the race to reason. It does not, heaven knows, always succeed, but it is the best method that we have. It is not the only road to the goal, but there is none better. Furthermore, it is worth teaching. Were I given to hyperbole I would say that mathematics is the most glorious creation of the human intellect, but I am not given to hyperbole so I will not say that. However, when I am before a bar of judgment, heavenly or otherwise, and asked to justify my life, I will draw myself up proudly and say, “I was one of the stewards of mathematics, and it came to no harm in my care.” I will not say, “I helped people get jobs.”


Written by uncudh

August 24, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Posted in math

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