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

A Mathematician's Lament by Paul  Lockhart
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Feb 14, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012
Read in January, 2012

I found this book fascinating. It discusses how the way we teach math robs students of seeing its beauty. I agree with all the points he makes in the first half about how we teach students to be followers of procedures, not to be problem solvers. It starts out with a musician having a horrible dream in which music education is required. All students must learn the "language" of music, must be able to draw black dots and lines, how one student didn't get the points on her assignment because her staffs were pointing the wrong direction, etc. Actually playing or making music is an advanced topic and reserved for graduate school. This analogy to how we teach math is too perfect. Students who think they are good at math get to college and learn they are just good at following directions. They aren't ever exposed to discovering things on their own.

The second part of this book demonstrates why Lockhart believes math is beautiful. He gives examples of cool patterns and problems.

My frustration with this book was that while Lockhart makes excellent points about the problems with the way math is taught, he offers no suggestions to how to fix this. I understand that as long as we have standardized testing and expect kids to memorize certain math procedures that math education will stay the same. It still would have been nice, however, to include some suggestions of how to adapt teaching to include discovery learning.

Would you enjoy this book if you aren't a math teacher? I think so. I think it is eye opening to think about how we learn math and how most of us think of it as a logical left-brained subject when in reality, the true mathematicians must be creative, problem solvers and more right-brained. I think the second part of the book will especially appeal to non-math teachers where you can see why math is so fascinating.
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