A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form

Overview

“One of the best critiques of current mathematics education I have ever seen.”—Keith Devlin, math columnist on NPR’s Morning Edition

A brilliant research mathematician who has devoted his career to teaching kids reveals math to be creative and beautiful and rejects standard anxiety-producing teaching methods. Witty and accessible, Paul Lockhart’s controversial approach will provoke spirited debate among educators and parents alike and it will ...

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A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form

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Overview

“One of the best critiques of current mathematics education I have ever seen.”—Keith Devlin, math columnist on NPR’s Morning Edition

A brilliant research mathematician who has devoted his career to teaching kids reveals math to be creative and beautiful and rejects standard anxiety-producing teaching methods. Witty and accessible, Paul Lockhart’s controversial approach will provoke spirited debate among educators and parents alike and it will alter the way we think about math forever.

Paul Lockhart, has taught mathematics at Brown University and UC Santa Cruz. Since 2000, he has dedicated himself to K-12 level students at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Like music or painting, says long-time math teacher (K-12 and college) Lockhart, mathematics is an art-"the art of explanation," "the music of reason"-and its method of instruction in American schools has reduced a "rich and fascinating adventure of the imagination... to a sterile set of facts to be memorized and procedures to be followed." With passionate reasoning, Lockhart unveils the creative, flexible, open-minded side of math; an early analogy casting music education in a math instruction model-students must study proper notation for years before attempting to, say, hum a tune-makes a brilliant introduction. Making a clear distinction between "facts and formulas" and "mathematics," Lockhart inspires a second look at received wisdom regarding math-that it's necessary to learn (do carpenters use trigonometry? Does anyone balance their checkbook without a calculator?), or that it has any direct connection to reality ("the glory of it is its complete irrelevance to our lives"). Though it features a thorough thrashing of current methods without suggesting how to fix the curriculum, Lockhart's slim volume (based on his widely-circulated essay) provides a fresh way of thinking about math, and education in general, that should inspire practical applications in the classroom and at home.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934137178
  • Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 197,310
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.30 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Paul Lockhart became interested in mathematics when he was 14 (outside the classroom, he points out). He dropped out of college after one semester to devote himself exclusively to math. Based on his own research he was admitted to Columbia, received a PhD, and has taught at major universities. Since 2000 he has dedicated himself to "subversively" teaching grade-school math.
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 21, 2009

    good for the 80's

    I was looking forward to reading this book. I really was. While the text on the cover page, along with the product description were catchy, the book thoroughly disappointed me.

    This is an opinion book - nothing more. Its contents belong on a blog.

    This is a small expansion on an essay which you may find elsewhere on the internet under the same title and names (both author and writer of the foreword). This book contains only some 50 pages which extend beyond the original essay.

    One of the things which I was hoping to find was a critique of NCTM and its Standards books. There was nothing of that sort here. As a matter of fact, the author never mentions NCTM by name. Once, he mentions "countless committees of teachers" and later mentions "obsolete national conventions." He even writes, "There should be no standards, and no curriculum." It is difficult to determine exactly what the author means by "standards," whether it is testing or those described by NCTM.

    In his critique of geometry, he twice demonstrates excellent departures from two-column proofs. The odd thing is that those examples are exactly the sort of changes which NCTM has been promoting since its original "Standards" were published in the late 1980's.

    There are other extreme statements similar to those about curriculum, but extending to teacher education in general. This is not meant to get too personal about the author's situation, but the readers should understand that he teaches at a private school with selective admission. Also, many private schools do not require the same certification that is required of public school teachers across the country. Consequently, his general view of teacher education programs may not be from somebody who has experienced a good one first-hand.

    Instead of this book, there are more constructive ways to spend your money. NCTM's Principles and Standards for School Mathematics would be a good start. Make sure to get one with the CD-ROM, as that includes the other previous volumes plus many extras. There are numerous books which are filled with math problems and ideas far more deeply than this book - just browse this site.

    Don't get me wrong. The author does make some valid points, but relevant for 25 years ago. The educators whom he criticizes are those who simply will not change anyway. To those educators who want to bring about necessary change to your classrooms: you will find nothing meaningful here.

    If you really want to get into the spirit of this book, pop in some "Rage Against The Machine" when you are doing your lesson plans...and crank it all the way up to 11.

    As a final note, your book will contain only 140 pages, not 192 as listed in the product description. Maybe that was done in the spirit of the kind of counting that happens when teachers go without a curriculum.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    a waste of time and money

    I was looking forward to reading this book. I really was. While the text on the cover page, along with the product description were catchy, the book thoroughly disappointed me.This is a small expansion on an essay which you may find elsewhere on the internet under the same title and names (both author and writer of the foreword). This book contains only some 50 pages which extend beyond the original essay.One of the things which I was hoping to find was a critique of NCTM and its Standards books. There was nothing of that sort here. As a matter of fact, the author never mentions NCTM by name. Once, he mentions "countless committees of teachers" and later mentions "obsolete national conventions." He even writes, "There should be no standards, and no curriculum." It is difficult to determine exactly what the author means by "standards," whether it is testing or those described by NCTM.In his critique of geometry, he twice demonstrates excellent departures from two-column proofs. The odd thing is that those examples are exactly the sort of changes which NCTM has been promoting since its original "Standards" were published in the late 1980's.There are other extreme statements similar to those about curriculum, but extending to teacher education in general. This is not meant to get too personal about the author's situation, but the readers should understand that he teaches at a private school with selective admission. Also, many private schools do not require the same certification that is required of public school teachers across the country. Consequently, his general view of teacher education programs may not be from somebody who has experienced a good one first-hand.Instead of this book, there are more constructive ways to spend your money. NCTM's Principles and Standards for School Mathematics would be a good start. Make sure to get one with the CD-ROM, as that includes the other previous volumes plus many extras. There are numerous books which are filled with math problems and ideas far more deeply than this book - just browse this site.Don't get me wrong. The author does make some valid points, but relevant for 25 years ago. The educators whom he criticizes are those who simply will not change anyway. To those educators who want to bring about necessary change to your classrooms: you will find nothing meaningful here.If you really want to get into the spirit of this book, pop in some "Rage Against The Machine" when you are doing your lesson plans...and crank it all the way up to 11.As a final note, your book will contain only 140 pages, not 192 as listed in the product description. Maybe that was done in the spirit of the kind of counting that happens when teachers go without a curriculum.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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