The Natural Marvelment in Mathematics (reposting)

Math is the beautiful, rich, joyful, playful, surprising, frustrating, humbling and creative art that speaks to something transcendental,” says mathematician and teacher trainer James Tanton of the Mathematical Association of America. That’s quite a list of adjectives—and not the usual suspects to describe math for many. 

We featured Dr. Tanton in the most recent issue of VIRTUE, which was focused on the delights and drama (dare I say it) of mathematics, and he did a marvelous job expressing the ways in which math—if I may use the short formenlivens and liberates the mind. 

But, Dr. Tanton is not naïve. He knows well, even first-hand, that many or most of us shy away from the numbers game that we have witnessed in the classrooms of our youth. (Or, perhaps the classrooms were currently attending!) Nevertheless, Dr. Tanton remains enthusiastic for what is possible, for the ways in which thinking like a mathematiciantruly astounds the mind. Here is a video exemplifying the method of his teaching and the skillful demeanor he has. 

So, on this Thursday in August 2020, with our children returning to school (and math class), let’s peek into the possibility that mathematics is more like the Wonderland of Alice, with the ever-present surprise and the genuine delights of the human imagination. 


VIRTUE is the flagship publication of the Institute for Classical Education. It disseminates stories, ideas, research and experiences in classical education to readers across the nation, helping them to pursue the classical ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty.

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