In the Mind's Eye: Visual Thinkers, Gifted People with Dyslexia and Other Learning Difficulties, Computer Images, and the Ironies of Creativity

By Thomas G. West | Go to book overview

9 Images, Computers, and Mathematics

Mathematics is many things. It is measurement and counting. It is concepts, symbols, and rules learned in primary school--addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, and percents learned between the ages of six and twelve. Basic material. It is a few really profound, elementary concepts, although it may not seem so, but mostly it is repetition and rote memorization and practice.

In the beginning, it is learning a few simple rules and symbols and memorizing the results of many different combinations of these few rules and symbols--the "math facts": 7 and 9 are 16; 7 from 9 is 2; 7 times 9 is 63; 7 divided by 9 is less than 1 and is hard (unless you happen to have learned and can still remember that it is a decimal point followed by a string of 7s). Whether carpenter, clerk, shopkeeper, accountant, corporate director, or Senate budget committee member, one needs very little more than this to perform well to the end of one's life. This is as true now as it was four hundred years ago.

Some may learn, in high school or college, some algebra, geometry, trigonometry, or calculus. But these are not often used. For those who study them, these are mainly rites of passage. For most, it is training the intellect rather than acquiring tools useful throughout life. Eventually, for others, the more advanced courses may be primarily obstacles, intended to weed out those who cannot do it or will not do it, a useful way of determining who is serious and really bright, or so it is thought. Most of the material is rarely used in business or accounting or law or medicine, except in certain small, specialized groups were the use of certain specific

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