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philosophy

Relevance Is Not the Goal

Experience has shown, and a true philosophy will always show, that a vast, perhaps the larger portion of the truth arises from the seemingly irrelevant.

Edgar Allan Poe
The Mystery Of Marie Rogêt

In my last post, about the history of mathematics,  I mentioned briefly the mathematician GH Hardy, who was based in Cambridge in the early twentieth century and who was the mentor of Srinivasa Ramanujan, the subject of Hollywood’s latest foray into the world of mathematical genius.  Hardy wrote a wonderful book called A Mathematician’s Apology, in which he discusses the beauty of mathematics and expounds the importance of mathematics for its own sake, rather than for its applications.  Hardy was vociferous in his belief that the most beautiful mathematics was pure mathematics, that which had no applications. It wasn’t that Hardy was against applying mathematics per se, more that true elegance existed in a discipline that was pursued chiefly as a matter of intellectual curiosity, or in the act of creating or discovering something truly new, without the ulterior motive of improving the material lot of humankind. Continue reading “Relevance Is Not the Goal”

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Adverbs and Opportunities

I wasn’t going to blog about my thoughts on education.  I was going to stick to mathematics and resources, but a conversation on Twitter this week got me thinking, to the point where I had to write.   Continue reading “Adverbs and Opportunities”

When am I ever going to use this?

I’m a teacher, and one of the most frustrating questions I ever get asked is some variant of, “But when am I ever going to use this?”.  And that, right there, is a problem.  Do they ever say to the history teacher, “But when I’ve got a job I won’t need to know about the complex web of events that preceded the Second World War”?  Do they ever say to the geography teacher, “But when I’m doing my shopping I won’t need to know about an oxbow lake”? (I do like a good oxbow lake, by the way. The one pictured is in Sarawak, Malaysia).  And do they ever say to the English teacher, “But I don’t need to have read Great Expectations in order to write a good CV”?  Probably not, but they sure as heck say to the maths teacher, “But when will I ever use a quadratic equation once I leave school?” Continue reading “When am I ever going to use this?”

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