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A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form Paperback – 14 May 2009

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press (14 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934137170
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934137178
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.3 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 158,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Paul Lockhart became interested in mathematics when he was 14 (outside the classroom, he points out). He dropped out of college after one semester to devote himself exclusively to math. Based on his own research he was admitted to Columbia, received a PhD, and has taught at major universities. Since 2000 he has dedicated himself to "subversively" teaching grade-school math.


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Every so often, I read a book which I cannot put down. Paul Lockhart's book is one of them. I received it this morning and finished it this afternoon, including some time to work through one or two of his 'maths games.'

As reported in other reviews, Lockhart brings a wealth of experience as a university level maths teacher, who decided to take his talents to benefit K12 level students in school. Lockhart is exactly the kind of teacher everyone should have in their maths class. His approach is simple and intuitively sound; namely, that maths as it is currently taught in most school classrooms is not really maths per se; rather it is a training process that rewards those who are good at learning a multitude of facts in the shape of formulae and algorithms, but who are not necessarily inclined towards or even competent at thinking 'outside the box.' As the Forward to the book by Keith Devlin (a maths professor at Stanford University) points out, many successful high-school mathematics students come unstuck when arriving at university to study mathematics, since the approach and character of the subject is so very different. The analogy is that pre-university maths is similar to learning to paint by numbers and that only when one 'arrives' at university is true maths introduced into the curriculum and the student is allowed to pick up a blank canvas to construct a painting. Many cannot make the transition, largely because they lack the mind-set necessary for this unstructured approach.

Lockhart appeals to us to appreciate that this transition is not something which should simply occur for a minority of students arriving at university.
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Format: Paperback
A wonderful read. It should be noted by the potential purchaser that it is only the foreward that is by Keith Devlin. This book is in fact Paul Lockhart's brilliant 140 page arguement that maths is 'the purest of the arts, as well as the most misunderstood.' And his arguement is very persuasive, writing that the 'maths' we are presented with in school is not the real thing at all, but a frighteningly dummed down version. That what is done to maths in school is the equivalent of painting-by-numbers being presented as art's true essence. Lockhart states 'Mathematics is fundamentally an act of communication, and, as if to prove his point, it is clear that the author has communication down to an art form. As a non-mathematician I was fully able to follow and appreciate the arguements and mathematical problems presented in this book. Perhaps best summed up in Lockhart's own phrase; 'If tears aren't streaming down your face, maybe you should read it again.' Not that that would be a chore. Five stars are not enough.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ok, it can get evangelical, but it is a very good exposition of what is wrong (albeit American) with maths education. Having taught a bit of adult maths, and obviously been a victim myself, Paul's observations resonate and I believe it will with most readers. It fails in that Pauls answer to this makes SMP maths (for those who remember that) seem like a tedious wrote learning exercise. Yes, I agree children should be free to explore the mathematical frameworks, but no, I disagree in that number bonds are important, and along with times tables should simply be learnt by wrote.

It's a good read, I enjoyed it, but I recommend Daily Mail readers stay away as it may be injurious to their health :-)
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It is a work of genius that demonstrates, entertainingly, just how what passes for eduction in our society destroys mathematical ability rather than fostering it. Sad to say the author's criticisms apply just as forcefully to many other school subjects.
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