A Mathematician Explains

A Mathematician Explains

A Mathematician Explains

A Mathematician Explains

Excerpt

The idea that each individual has something to gain by acquiring a knowledge of mathematics is not new. According to Plato, "the art of calculation (logistika) and arithmetic are both concerned with number; those who have a natural gift for calculating have, generally speaking, a talent for learning of all kinds, and even those who are slow are, by practice in it, made smarter. But the art of calculation is only preparatory to the true science; those who are to govern the city are to get a grasp of logistika, not in the popular sense with a view to use in trade, but only for the purpose of knowledge, until they are able to contemplate the nature of number in itself by thought alone."

The college curriculum of the University of Chicago, adopted in 1930, includes a course of three lectures per week for one year in the physical sciences, paralleled with small-group discussions. The conduct and content of this course, which is required of all college students, are motivated by the knowledge that many persons pass through youth, adulthood, and old age with no understanding of, or interest in, the operation of natural laws.

This course, planned for the student who has no native interest in the physical sciences, is perforce entirely different from a course which might be designed for a student who has a definite interest in this field. Its aim is to provide explanations for what is happening about us and to show with some detail how the human race through the ages has arrived . . .

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