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# A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form

“One of the best critiques of current mathematics education I have ever seen.”—Keith Devlin, math columnist on NPR’s

A brilliant research mathematician who has devoted his career to teaching kids reveals math to be creative and beautiful and rejects standard anxiety-producing teaching methods. Witty and accessible, Paul Lockhart’s controversial approach will ...more

*Morning Edition*A brilliant research mathematician who has devoted his career to teaching kids reveals math to be creative and beautiful and rejects standard anxiety-producing teaching methods. Witty and accessible, Paul Lockhart’s controversial approach will ...more

Paperback, 144 pages

Published
April 1st 2009
by Bellevue Literary Press
(first published January 1st 2009)

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## Community Reviews

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Now, for the high praises!! YES, math is supposed to be FUN. It's about noticing, thinkin ...more

*A Mathematician's Lament*is more of a long essay than a book--one man's problems with mathematics education without a viable solution. Now, I consider myself, while no mathematician, a mathematics...enthusiast, if you will. I read the occasional recreational mathematics book, I am one of the three people on earth who subscribes to the journal of recreational mathematics, I am constantly sneaking new variations on Tangrams and other puzzles into the house. And I am definitely not a fan of modern ...more

Jul 05, 2011
K.
rated it
5 of 5 stars

Recommends it for:
Math haters

Recommended to K. by:
Sally B.

Shelves:
education

Disclaimer 1) This is only a review of the 25 page essay, which can be found here: http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLa.... Why am I reviewing the essay instead of the book? Well, I don’t have the book, but I did read the essay and thought that posting a review of even part of it would be of worth to some poor, sad, math-challenged-but-don’t-know-why soul.

Disclaimer2) I know next to nothing about mathematics, but am endeavoring to want to learn it. God bless you, Sally B., for sending me the li ...more

Disclaimer2) I know next to nothing about mathematics, but am endeavoring to want to learn it. God bless you, Sally B., for sending me the li ...more

Seriously, this is a great essay/book. Worth reading probably once a semester, if not more. And

*before*structuring a class (curriculum). The faux dialog at the end of every section is awesome, and indicates good ways to respond to nay-sayers (are there any?), even if not all of the questions/concerns are fully addre ...more

Perhaps with this: YOU, YES YOU, READ THIS ASAP, I'm strongly convinced you won't regret it, especially if you're involved with maths in one way or the other!

This is by far the most inspiring book on mathematics I've ever stumbled upon and I honestly doubt that I'll stumble again on something so honest, so true, so passionate and human! I'm sure many of you mathematics lovers will experience the same feeling of joy and understanding when you hear what Loc ...more

If you teach math, consider how you might incorporate just a hint of what this book suggests for embracing real math in the classroom, in spite of standards, testing, curriculum, and your own education.

If you think your own children need more math practice and homework, read this and ponder the similarities between math and art and what you really want for your child.

If you're a writer, read this and weep at how you fail to ge ...more

-the state of mathematics education is bad. Here's why.

-here's an analogy illustrating the sorry state of mathematics education

-here's some insight into how mathematicians think about math

-here's what we can do to improve math education in America

-here are some actionable items that you can employ today to make your children's math education more enjoyable and more thorough

What I got:

-here's an analogy illustrating the sorry state of math education

-here's another analogy

-another ...more

it's true that the way we teach HS math is intellectually bankrupt. Lockhart's solution is math for math's sake - an un-curricilum built around puzzles and games, designed mostly to create those moments of pure awe that grappling with abstract concepts can bring. but like most austere utopias, I'm not sure I actually sure it's the right place for most of us to reside.

there's a ...more

And ...more

The second part is to give examples of the beauty and elegant of math.

Jan 25, 2014
Kirsten Swanson
added it

This is a beautifully, passionately written book. I especially liked the last part, when he discussed the things that particularly make mathematicians giddy.

I liked the metaphor he begins with, maths like music or painting. I believe maths is an art, like Lockhart does. And in their beauty as well. He criticizes a lot of patterns in current math teaching that I agree: the preponderance of algorithms versus the pure ide ...more

The focus of this book is pointing out the beauty in math. The author writes about how there are so many different ways to prove something, and the fun and challenge is finding the most elegant way to do so. It's about creativity and self-expression. He also talks about finding patterns and discovering ...more

**EVERYONE**.

The book begins with a fiendishly clever thought experiment. Imagine a reality where music education is deemed mandatory. "They are helping their students to be more competitive in an increasingly sound filled world". Educators, committees, and the state are put to work on this enterprise. Because musicians are known to set down their ideas in sheet music, these dots and lines must constitute "the language of music". It becomes imperative that st ...more

And I completely agree with several things he said regarding education in general. I loved how he said "teaching is not about information. It's about having an honest intellectual relationship with your students." That's the closest description I've found to how I ...more

How come none of this came up when talking to my high school math teachers? Why was I always the kid who was "no ...more

I agree with much of what he says, though I do think that his claims sometimes go a bit too far: he doesn't seem to see much point in learning to add in an age of calculators, ...more

Apr 15, 2009
Bonnie Y
rated it
5 of 5 stars

Recommends it for:
most anyone, particularly math teachers, parents, students, or people who hated math!

Recommended to Bonnie by:
newspaper book review

Shelves:
mathematics

This is a brand new book, which is an expanded essay about why math is taught all wrong in schools. It's delightfully short - I just read it all this evening!

The author's thesis is that math is an art, and we are teaching the grunt work of math, but not the enjoyment of the art.

He starts with a "Lamentation" about how terrible school math is, as if we were teaching kids to read music notes on paper, without ever letting them listen to, play or compose music.

But then he concludes with "Exultation ...more

The author's thesis is that math is an art, and we are teaching the grunt work of math, but not the enjoyment of the art.

He starts with a "Lamentation" about how terrible school math is, as if we were teaching kids to read music notes on paper, without ever letting them listen to, play or compose music.

But then he concludes with "Exultation ...more

Full disclosure; I wanted to like this book, and I did. The author is passionate and playful, the book is funny at times, and serious at others, and he clearly understands all of the points ...more

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

- Antoine de Saint Exupéry

P39. To help your students memorize formula for the area and circumference of a circle, for example, you might invent a whole story about Mr. C, who drive around Mrs. A and tell her how nice his two pies are , and how her pies are square or some nonsense. But what about the real story? The ...more

Dec 07, 2013
Jessi
is currently reading it

I keep reading things about teaching math, or watching TED talks on it, because it is my current educational thing to obsess over.

I'm liking this short book/essay a lot, so far. There is a lot quotable, but these things are helping me when I think about how I've been teaching math (crappily).

Q. But don’t we need third graders to be able to do arithmetic?

A. Why? You want to train them to calculate 427 plus 389? It’s just not a question that very many eight-year-olds are asking...It is simply to ...more

I'm liking this short book/essay a lot, so far. There is a lot quotable, but these things are helping me when I think about how I've been teaching math (crappily).

Q. But don’t we need third graders to be able to do arithmetic?

A. Why? You want to train them to calculate 427 plus 389? It’s just not a question that very many eight-year-olds are asking...It is simply to ...more

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Paul Lockhart became interested in mathematics when he was 14 (outside the classroom, he points out). He dropped out of college after one semester to devote himself exclusively to math. Based on his own research he was admitted to Columbia, received a PhD, and has taught at major universities, including Brown University and UC Santa Cruz. Since 2000 he has dedicated himself to "subversively" teach
...more

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“It is the story that matters not just the ending.”
—
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“No mathematician in the world would bother making these senseless distinctions: 2 1/2 is a "mixed number " while 5/2 is an "improper fraction." They're EQUAL for crying out loud. They are the exact same numbers and have the exact same properties. Who uses such words outside of fourth grade?”
—
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