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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

(showing 1-30)

Lockhart and I started in lock-step. YES. The current state of mathematics education is a TRAVESTY - we are most emp ...more

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

The author's stunningly poethic approach to math as a study of world and its transcendent nature that is so eloquently explained in this work can make even the most antimathematically thinking person to fall in love with maths!

A sure must reread.

Jul 05, 2011
K.
rated it
it was amazing

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

*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

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

intellectual aesthetic?

Yep. That's what I'm saying. In particular, pure mathematics (by which I mean the fine art of mathematical proof) has absolutely no practical or economic value wh ...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

I have no objection to the claim(s) that the way math is taught today is illogical and stultifying. But the notions that math is an "art" and that is was c ...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

Jul 16, 2012
Clare
rated it
it was amazing

Recommends it for:
people who hated math in school; also, people who love math anyway

Shelves:
mathematics,
books-about-teaching

My boyfriend is a mathematician. Whenever he tells this to people, they tend to either change the subject, or say how much they hate math then change the subject. This book is an ode to a lovely and deep art form that doesn't receive the love and respect it deserves. I had (for the most part) quite good math teachers in my public school education. Nevertheless, until I took a proof-based college-level math class, there was never much emphasis on working out problems (ie. proofs) in a creative wa
...more

I couldn't agree more. And it's so painful to experience this again with Vanya's schooling. He comes home after school tired of being bored for t ...more

Lockhart is brilliant and witty. I found myself laughing out loud several times while reading.

He compares our math curriculum to a hypothetical world in which we teach children musical theory until they're 18, and if they do really well memorizing all the notes and symbols, then they may start listening to music and learning an instrument in college. He says no one (especially curr ...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 second part is to give examples of the beauty and elegant of math.

Jul 28, 2013
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.

"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

Feb 26, 2017
Shaylee*cheeky*
rated it
it was ok
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
read-for-school

*I read this for my math class and this is what I wrote in response:

Here I was thinking this book was going to be some boring math book. Boy, was I wrong! I very much enjoyed this delightful book. I was more enraptured as each page just rolled by in a blur. Occasionally, two people talked back and forth with one asking questions and the other answering. This was surprisingly helpful and I found myself asking these exact same questions before they came up in the conversation.

The theme of this bo ...more

Here I was thinking this book was going to be some boring math book. Boy, was I wrong! I very much enjoyed this delightful book. I was more enraptured as each page just rolled by in a blur. Occasionally, two people talked back and forth with one asking questions and the other answering. This was surprisingly helpful and I found myself asking these exact same questions before they came up in the conversation.

The theme of this bo ...more

I've laughed so much. I don't know if it's just me that would find this amusing, but based on my experience, I recommend it as a funny read too, not simply educational one.

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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.”
—
82 likes

“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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