The Other Math Book


So I went to the library and checked out a book called “The Math Myth and Other Stem Delusions” by Andrew Hacker. It might as well have been called “Confirmation Bias, The Book” for as much time that it took me to select it. I saw the title. I was predisposed to agree with it. I checked it out. I’m sure there is some way of saying that in Latin.

The book argues that in spite of our current social obsession with promoting the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers, we are not actually succeeding at making much progress because the emphasis on higher mathematics prevents many otherwise capable individuals from pursuing perfectly successful career paths. With the exception of geometry- which I loved and was the only math class that I could ever claim to have gotten an “easy A” in, I was a middling to poor mathematics student. If I got a C in Pre-Algebra, it was a generous grade. I have no memory at all of Algebra. I remember Trigonometry only as “the class that I should have done well in because I’d already taken AP Physics which required a lot of trigonometry but still managed to attain only middling grades”.

So I was more than a little bit edified to hear somebody else say that maybe the problem was with the system and not totally with me. I still regret not taking Calculus. I would have failed it if I’d taken it in high school, at the time I wasn’t interested enough to divert the mental energy away from college applications and Finding Myself to have succeeded at it. But I regret not having any way to learn it now, after the fact. You know, for fun. I found a calculus textbook in the trash and I’ve saved it ever since thinking that maybe someday I would go back and learn it- now that I have an adult brain. Every so often I open it up and look at the equations, but I might as well be reading the Voynich Manuscript for all that I can understand of it.

But anyway, what would I know? I went into the arts. Aside from my personal feelings of wanting to learn calculus, I can’t say that I’ve ever needed much more than arithmetic in my everyday life. I’m certainly not in one of the STEM fields, but I sometimes wonder if I would have found science or engineering more appealing if I’d felt more successful in mathematics in high school.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on June 21, 2016.

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