# Lockhart's Lament

Slashdot picked up Scott Aaronson's recent comments on Keith Devlin's column from last spring on mathematician and teacher Paul Lockhart's 2002 commentary on the state of mathematics education. I've duplicated the pdf locally: Lockhart's Lament. As one of the kids who didn't “get” math until after college, I couldn't help but smile as I read it.

Read it, but for the impatient, below are excerpts of one of the choicest parts:

bq.. **The Standard School Mathematics Curriculum**

**LOWER SCHOOL MATH.** The indoctrination begins. Students learn that
mathematics is not something you do, but something that is done to you.

**MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH.** Students are taught to view mathematics as a set
of procedures, akin to religious rites, which are eternal and set in
stone… Contrived and artificial “word problems” will be introduced in
order to make the mindless drudgery of arithmetic seem enjoyable by
comparison.

**ALGEBRA I.** So as not to waste valuable time thinking about numbers
and their patterns, this course instead focuses on symbols and rules for
their manipulation.

**GEOMETRY.** Isolated from the rest of the curriculum, this course will
raise the hopes of students who wish to engage in meaningful
mathematical activity, and then dash them.

**ALGEBRA II.** The subject of this course is the unmotivated and
inappropriate use of coordinate geometry… The name of the course is
chosen to reinforce the ladder mythology. Why Geometry occurs in between
Algebra I and its sequel remains a mystery.

**TRIGONOMETRY.** Two weeks of content are stretched to semester length
by masturbatory definitional runarounds.

**PRE-CALCULUS.** A senseless bouillabaisse of disconnected topics.
Mostly a half-baked attempt to introduce late nineteenth-century
analytic methods into settings where they are neither necessary nor
helpful.

**CALCULUS.** This course will explore the mathematics of motion, and
the best ways to bury it under a mountain of unnecessary formalism.