Lockhart’s Lament on Mathematics

March 12, 2008

Lockhart’s Lament is an article written by Paul Lockhart, and school math teacher, in 2002 and widely circulated but never published. The article begins with an analogy to music teaching: what if music teaching were made manditory, but they only taught the notes, the keys, the theory, and never played music or wrote songs or enjoyed the whole enterprise. This, Lockhart holds, is what we’ve done to mathematical education: We have distilled it to a series of meaningless notation, but have removed the beauty and the joy behind the symbols.

As a postscript to this, also see Marvin Minsky’s What Makes Mathematics Hard to Learn.

And, for that matter, it’s worth giving another plug to Project Euler, which I think comes very close to Lockhart’s ideal for mathematical education.

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