A Good Math Story

Published by patrick honner on

This video lecture from the Princeton Public lecture series features psychologist Stanislas Dehaene and mathematician and author Steven Strogatz discussing math, learning, and teaching.

Dehaene, a leading researcher in how the brain acquires and processes mathematical knowledge, has some interesting things to say about whether mathematics is innate or learned.  He also describes some fascinating research conducted on number sense and geometric understanding in primitive societies.

What I enjoyed most in this lecture, however, are the two stories from Steven Strogatz about his personal experiences learning math.  At around the 23:30 mark, Strogatz tells the story of when he first became “really interested” in math.  Strogatz is a wonderful storyteller, and the tale should resonate with anyone who has discovered, or is discovering, their passion for math or science.

Strogatz’s second story is about his first experience being “weeded out” in an advanced math course in college.  This is a story I wish I had heard as a student, and it’s something I’ll definitely be sharing with my students from now on.

And for more on math and teaching from Professor Strogatz, check out how his book “The Calculus of Friendship” is a great read for advanced math students.

patrick honner

Math teacher in Brooklyn, New York


KELSEY CHENG · August 16, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I really enjoyed reading that book, and I will say that I was surprised and relieved to be able to relate to his experience in that same course. I’m definitely glad I stuck with it.

MrHonner · August 16, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Was he teaching the course? 🙂

    KELSEY CHENG · August 16, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Haha. Nope. I expect it would have been a totally different experience if it was.

MrHonner · August 16, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I know what you mean. I might have stuck around for a PhD if I’d had a few teachers like him in grad school. Maybe one would have been enough to keep me around.

I look forward to hearing about your experience in the course; maybe in a blog?

    KELSEY CHENG · August 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I don’t know about that, but I have attempted to start a simple blog on another premise during my rather slow summer this year. It has hit a bit of a snag, and being back at school now doesn’t exactly help, but I’ll see how it goes. If you’re interested, the url is newsnumbers.wordpress.com, and I definitely welcome your feedback.

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