continued from…

… the comments to my last post here.

what “we” do with math; right.

i’ve never done *anything* with a large
data set. what i *have* done is coached
a senior computer-science student in SQL
(a “database” program based on ordinary
p-and-q symbolic logic in a straightforward way)
*without my ever having seen* SQL.
she was pretty helpless in it for a day or so
because she hadn’t looked at the tiny little
“easy” problems quite hard enough to make
certain things-obvious-to-experienced-users
available to her consciousness *at all*:
math is full of (what turn out to be)
“simple” things that are either trivially easy
or difficult-to-impossible (with no
middle ground; there’s some
not-at-all-quantum-like “leap”
where one “gets it”; this is widely
understood actually…).

i can read “logic” in any of many flavors
after all and even write it if i absolutely must.

and *that*’s what i’d like
*math teachers* to be able to do
and even to spread around.

dan’s made WCYDWT…
“what can you do with this?”…
famous all over town. good.

here’s a shaggy-dog story (lack-of-spoiler alert)
about one of my favorite lines in one of my
favorite movies. it’s in _fisher_king_ and
robin williams has gone nuts from witnessing
some horrific violence and lives in a squat
and hangs with the street people. jeff bridges
played a part in perry’s triggering episode
(robin williams is called perry; there’s a
character in the “fisher king” legend called
percival and one is left to draw conclusions
or not). so jeff feels guilty and wants to do
something for this perry guy and hunts him
out down in the derelict street to give him
some money. robin williams immediately
turns around and gives the money to
another crazy street person. “i gave it
to *you*” sez jeff; “what am *i* gonna
do with it?” sez robin. gets me every time.
(yes, that was the punchline. move along;
nothing to see here.)

“What Can You Do With This?”
well, if you can’t do it with
*tools at hand*, probably nothing.
what am *i* gonna do with it?

what can i do with SQL?
nothing until somebody else wants
to understand it; then i can
*put it aside* and look at
some much simpler ‘underlying
structure’ that i actually understand.
then i can talk about it.

same with, pretty much, any other “application”.

i don’t interest myself much in the question
“how can i generate student interest?”.
all the other teachers in all the other subjects
plus mass media, the church, and the wolf
at the door are my competition if i enter
this arena and i’ll lose.

my material not my presentation is
the best possible. my presentation
is just what “we” who are present
at the time are able to make out
of the materials at hand. going out
and working on my presentation
is distasteful *to me* because
i know i’m going to get my ass
handed to me by richer better looking
smarter people with better connections.
no fun.

so. at long last. a vision of what math is?

well, it’s sort of like 42nd street.
where the underworld can meet the elite.
respect and attention will be lavished upon
those who best understand equations
(and, okay, certain, yick, drawings).
much more so if they’re able and willing
(rare in combination) to *explain* them
to interested parties of a wide variety
of levels of previous experience.
best of all like everybody knows
is working with small groups
(scribbling symbols and *talking*).

you can’t buy it or download it.
if you need this explained
you’re never gonna get it.
jazz math ed.

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