The Future of Math Education

I just read the interview on this page. The page is a bit overburdened with ads but, okay, is is free content. That seems to be the way the internet works today. I have some comments, however.

First, asking a game designer how math education can be improved, and getting the answer „by games“ is not a big surprise. Ask a software vendor, say Wolfram Research, and you get a different answer. If you find a tool which helps to enforce interest, understanding or motivation you tend to generalize and try to use it for everything. But your tool won’t be the answer to everything. While it is obvious that we need less calculations and more understanding math education cannot be based on playing games, however deep and intelligent they might be.

Secondly, there has been a tool to circumvent the „Symbol Barrier“ mentioned in the interview since thousands of years. It is called geometry. And it is as important as ever, be it in applications of physics, mechanics, even biology, but especially as an educative tool. So why not use it? In essence, analyzing a video game might just end in a geometry problem. But more important, we need the interaction between geometry and algebraic math to understand our world.

The role of mathematics, finally, has always been overrated by mathematicians and underestimated by non-mathematicians. It’s a useful tool, certainly. Without it, much less would be possible in our technology and our science. If you want to read a very nice and lovely fictional story read The Humans by Matt Haig. Despite of its great insights it is glorifying the role of mathematics in a most ridiculous way. If you want to see complete negligence of math in science read any news article about esoteric medicine. It is our job to train students in the critical and intelligent use of mathematics by giving them the tools and explaining what those tools can and also what they cannot do.

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