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Do We Need to Know Algebra?

by: Carla Augustad

Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 18:33:13 PM MST

This piece in the NYT opinion section  is very thought provoking; I am surprised to find myself giving it serious thought.

 What do you think?

Carla Augustad :: Do We Need to Know Algebra?
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Showing my own biases (0.00 / 0)
Upon reading your headline, my initial and almost instinctive answer was "yes", for absolutely no rational reason.  I say it isn't rational because I haven't really thought that for a long time.

Very early on in my technology career, I learned that even the most technophobic individual will learn and learn well how to do things they really want to do on a computer.  I know a person who is an ace with Photoshop, but still has difficulty with sending an email.  Much to the point of the article, people have aptitudes and interests that defy the traditional fields of study.  Personally, I'm pretty good at algebra and calculus ... except that trigonometry completely defies my reason.  Traditional education includes vastly more trig than any human short of mathematicians or physicists  will ever have cause to use.

I think this is another case where Western culture thinks itself emulating the Greek value of mathematics in that math can 'describe the world' and understand it better.  In truth, we're actually emulating the Romans.  We don't care about describing the world.  We care about the abilities math gives us to manipulate it, and tradition forces a particular myopia towards that view.

I'm going to change the sidebar quiz to reflect the question you pose here.

Well there you go (0.00 / 0)
Your first paragraph mirrored my initial thoughts perfectly, that is if I could have formed the concepts into a vocabulary and some structure.  Paragraph two makes perfect sense to me but paragraph three sent my grey matter into overload.

I am glad you liked the article.  Sometimes new ideas take a long time to sink in, even longer for me to digest them.  


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