You may remember Paul Lockhart as the author of a **Mathematician’s Lament**. I’m currently reading his newest book, **Measurement**. I’m halfway through it and reading it every chance I get. Here’s my favourite quote from the book so far:

*"All of the events — past, present, and future — of our whole ridiculous universe are writ on this one four-dimensional canvas, and we are but the tiniest brush strokes." Paul Lockhart*

Of course, what Paul says is true. Here’s a great mathematical investigation: Given a football sized canvas, how large a brush stroke would all of the aggregate movement of the human species require, assuming the canvas represents the entire universe.

If you are a math teacher, or just want to understand what people find fascinating about mathematics, I recommend reading Paul’s book.

## Liz Durkin says:

Loved the post. Has inspired me to read this book. Might borrow the quote for my classroom. Thanks for recommendation.

January 8, 2013 — 8:33 pm

## Tim Frodsham says:

David, thanks for pointing out such an insightful article. Lockhart’s book is now on my list. I’m reminded of a recent article about problem that was posed to a group of students educated in the orient and a group of American students. The problem was unsolvable, but the children did not know this. The American kids gave up after just a few minutes while the oriental group worked on the problem till the end of the period. Whether or not the oriental students were motivated by a sense of wonder can be debated, but what struck me, and what Lockhart points out is that we have killed in our children a sense of wonder and exploration.

As a mathematician and educator, math is a transcendent art form. As an electronics engineer, math has given me powerful tools to explore the utility as well as the beauty of the physical world. At the start of each semester, I set a goal to teach my students about the real mathematics while slogging through the standardized curriculum. Lockhart has given me some good ideas.

Tim

January 11, 2013 — 11:51 am

## David Wees says:

When I worked in NYC, I gave an unsolvable problem to a group of ninth graders. It spread to the other classes. Some students worked on the problem for a week, coming up to me before school with possible solutions. Another group bet their teacher the problem was unsolvable and won a pizza party. Sure, there were some kids who gave up quickly, but there were many who did not. The lesson for me was that I should discard my preconceived notions about the desire of my students to learn, and their willingness to engage in mathematical exploration.

January 12, 2013 — 10:01 am