The Grey Lady teaches Math
April 11, 2010 6:57 PM Subscribe
"Crazy as it sounds, over the next several weeks I’m going to try to do something close to that. I’ll be writing about the elements of mathematics,
posted by storybored (21 comments total)
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from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject — but this time from an adult perspective. It’s not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it." Mathematics in the pages of the New York Times!
The author is Stephen Strogatz, professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. In 2007 he received the Communications Award, a lifetime achievement award for the communication of mathematics to the general public.
Does Strogatz succeed in conveying the wonder of math? YMMV, but take the piece on subtraction and negative numbers
for example: In it, he shows us why two negative numbers multiplied together must be positive. And then he give us this marvelous riff:
"Admittedly, life sometimes seems to play by different rules. In conventional morality, two wrongs don’t make a right. Likewise, double negatives don’t always amount to positives; they can make negatives more intense, as in “I can’t get no satisfaction.” (Actually, languages can be very tricky in this respect. The eminent linguistic philosopher J. L. Austin of Oxford once gave a lecture in which he asserted that there are many languages in which a double negative makes a positive, but none in which a double positive makes a negative — to which the Columbia philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser, sitting in the audience, sarcastically replied, “Yeah, yeah.”)