Mathematical literacy

Jacques Distler has a great rant about mathematical literacy, rebutting algebra-flunker-empathizer Richard Cohen. Quoting Cohen's WaPo column:

"Gabriela, sooner or later someone's going to tell you that algebra teaches reasoning. This is a lie propagated by, among others, algebra teachers. Writing is the highest form of reasoning. This is a fact. Algebra is not. The proof of this, Gabriela, is all the people in my high school who were whizzes at math but did not know a thing about history and could not write a readable English sentence. I can cite Shelly, whose last name will not be mentioned, who aced algebra but when called to the board in geography class, located the Sahara Desert right where the Gobi usually is. She was off by a whole continent."

So a bunch of people from your high school constitute "proof" of your claim that writing is the highest form of logic? You blowhard, that's inductive reasoning, not proof! That's circumstantial evidence, not proof.

And I am failing to conceive of what the bald assertion "writing is the highest form of reasoning" even means. Reasoning, by virtually any definition, is process that occurs entirely within one's consciousness; whereas writing represents an idea in another medium.

Let's look at that one more time:

Writing is the highest form of reasoning. This is a fact. Algebra is not.

Dangling modifier alert! So, algebra is not a fact? I challenge you to find me one revisionist mathematician out to disprove 'algebra'. Nice writing, Mr. Cohen.

Mathematics is practical and creative. I hope to one day live in a culture that values mathematics as much as writing.









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