The Convergence of Logic, Beauty, and True Friendship (by Nikhil Jandhyala)
(NOTE: This entry was composed by Nikhil Jandhyala, an intern with the Institute and an alumnus of Anthem Preparatory Academy.)
Mathematics can be a strenuous study for many. A 2018 Pew Research poll shows that students do not pursue mathematics in college due to the difficulty of the subject. Perhaps the difficulty comes from the delivery of the subject: the way math is taught.
Jake Tawney, a veteran math teacher and teacher trainer believes that math is no drudgery, if it’s taught as a spell-binding story: “A proof is a movement of logic that unfolds as a narrative. It is incumbent upon the mathematician not only to know the truth, but also to communicate the truth to an audience.” The discursive faculty of the mind moves from a fixed order of propositions, certain simple truths, to that shared experience of logic, beauty, and even the friendship of mathematical pursuits.
To that end, students must be involved in the process of proof-writing, in order to appreciate the beauty of this liberal art. As Tawney says of Euclid:
Euclid’s presentation of geometry is the archetype of professional mathematics: a formal system that builds upon first principles (“postulates” or “axioms”) and definitions. From there, the mathematician makes conjectures about mathematical truths and proceeds to offer rigorous logical proofs for these conjectures…the art of proof allows them to discover objective truth in immaterial and eternal realities.
The search for truth is very human, for it begins in a similar fashion to the ways we come to know the external, natural world: beginning with what we know and striving to understand what (as of yet) is unknown.
Is the study of math difficult? Perhaps, though I suspect less than it should be, if we can tell its story straight. Moreover, if truth is to be found in math class, then it dare not be boring. Difficult, perhaps, but never boring.