Monday, June 20, 2011

Ah, Students

I once had a student in an introductory survey course who on the final exam referred to Platonic solids as Caesar salads. She was otherwise rather nondescript, and I was never certain whether her remark was intentional humor or a manifestation of "math anxiety."

John Allen Paulos, Beyond Numeracy. Vintage [New York: 1992] p. 180. It reminds me of the logic test I've mentioned before, in which, asked to name two logicians who had been discussed in class, gave as one of her answers, "Barbara Syllogism," or the young man on the same test who, asked to distinguish a categorical proposition from a noncategorical one, replied that noncategorical propositions come from hookers.

Paulos's book, which I just picked off the shelf of the local branch of the public library because I wanted something light to read at the time and it looked somewhat interesting, is indeed somewhat interesting, although two flaws with it are (1) that it passes off a lot of very dubious philosophy of mathematics under the guise of mathematical pedagogy, and (2) that the title is absurd: since it covered only ground I knew or needed no more than a light refresher in, I would have to be classified as 'beyond (barely) numerate', which is a manifest slander against truly numerate people everywhere, like the hubris of someone saying he was beyond being barely literate because he could understand the gossip column of the newspaper; such people do not understand how far up things go.

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