mike's web log

 

Blog Search


(Supports AND)

 

Google Ads

 

Feed

Subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog.

See this post for info on full versus truncated feeds.

 

Quote

The scientific handicapper will never beat the horses, but he will learn to be alert for subtleties that escape the less trained eye. To weigh and evaluate a vast grid of information, much of it meaningless, and to arrive at sensible, if erroneous, conclusions, is a skill not to be sneezed at.

— Richard Russo



 

Navigation






<April 2014>
SMTWTFS
303112345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930123
45678910


 

25 Most-Visited Entries

 

Categories

  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
  RSS
 

Blogs I Read

 

Contact

Email me
 

Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 4/3/2014

Totals
Posts - 2298
Comments - 2480
Hits - 1,617,835

Averages
Entries/day - 0.58
Comments/entry - 1.08
Hits/day - 410

Update every 30 minutes. Last: 2:43 AM Pacific

 
   |  Eric on math

posted at 06:48 PM | | |

A good post by Eric Lippert titled "Math is Everywhere" in which he posits seven reasons why the study of any subject, and particularly math, is never really a waste of time. His thesis in a nutshell:
"When are we ever going to use this in real life?" has been the cry of bored math students since time immemorial. Though the vast majority mightn't a clue what "real life" entails, it's still a fair question that deserves an answer. Coming up with practical examples of math in real life is a reasonable approach.

But I would go further. I would deny the very implicit premises that the question is based upon: first, that the only really legitimate knowledge worth having is practical "real life" knowledge, second that anything which lacks an immediate, direct application is by definition impractical.
Followed by the seven reasons. As always, various folks have opinions to post as comments.

I agree with the general premise, even though I am not a particularly good exemplar of why studying math is inherently a good thing. (On the contrary, I'm sort of the "this is what happens when you don't" counter-example, having terminated my mathematical studies shockingly early, it seems in retrospect.) I would comment thusly:
  • Studying math is fun, just coz. I quit math early, but when I revisited it (in college, and later when my kids were busily bypassing my limited knowledge) I enjoyed it a heck of a lot more. As in, I enjoyed the homework a lot more than they did.
  • There is such a thing as "practical" math for virtually everyone: arithmetic (tax on a purchase, savings during a sale, tips in restaurants, fractions in everything); finance (compound interest); probability (Lotto odds, accident and disease risk); geometry and topology (carpentry, sewing; cooking (!)); and several more I can't think of at the moment. Obviously, mastering this kind of math is not what Eric necessarily has in mind, but these are all everyday applications that anyone would have a use for.
Anyway, well worth a read.

PS I am extremely antipathetic to the question "Why do we have to study this?" since the answer is basically "Because people smarter than you have found good use for this knowledge." Oh, well.

[categories] ,