Think Math Is Boring? Blame Our 1K-Year-Old Curriculum

Mathematician Edward Frenkel thinks there is a better way
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2014 10:12 AM CST
Think Math Is Boring? Blame Our 1K-Year-Old Curriculum

"Our current math curriculum is more than 1,000 years old," declares mathematician Edward Frenkel in the Los Angeles Times, and it's time to change things up so that kids stop asking, "Why study math?" Yes, we still need to teach those centuries-old equations, but it's important that we also show children "math's great masterpieces"—some of them very recent. By ignoring modern math ideas, we're robbing students of the chance to see math as fascinating, and instead adding more fuel to "the common perception of the subject as stale and boring."

We need to show students that math is about things like "clock arithmetic—in which adding four hours to 10am does not get you to 14 but to 2pm—which forms the basis of modern cryptography, protects our privacy in the digital world and, as we've learned, can be easily abused by the powers that be," Frenkel writes. They should learn about abstraction, which "is all around us"—it's what enabled us to move from bartering to gold coins, then to paper money and plastic credit cards, and now to digital currency. Kids are ready for this—Frenkel saw their eyes light up and their hands shoot into the air eagerly when he used a Rubik's Cube to explain symmetry groups—it's the adults who need to get on board. Click for his full column. (More mathematics stories.)

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