The moment, again

April 21, 2009

I got some requests to clarify what I meant when I said that this was a moment for mathematics in our culture. Let me explain.

For the first time ever, math is starting to be hip. When I was in high school I couldn’t imagine math being respected by those cool, we-do-stupid-dangerous-things people. Perhaps they still don’t respect it. But starting 12(!) years ago with Good Will Hunting, and proceeding through movies, plays, and TV shows like Proof, A Beautiful Mind, Numbers, not to mention countless popular math books, math has started to be cool in a way it never was.

At the same time, math education became central in the endless education debates. Earlier it was phonics vs “whole language,” but the argument centered on language in the past. More recently, math (i.e. the “math wars”) has had center stage in education.

I think the moment is passing now, but I still think there’s some ripeness. The opportunity to put a different idea about what mathematics feels like is still open.

I hope so anyway.

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