Opinion 28: Teaching Proofs to High-School Kids and Non-Math-Majors is Child-Abuse

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: Sept. 23, 1998

Post-Modern philosophers pointed out that science, and even mathematics, are not as scientific as they claim to be, but rather yet another set of beliefs (superstitions(?)).

The Mathematical religion is especially fundamentalist and orthodox. Mathematicians believe that proof is the only road to `understanding', and force-feed their students proofs that they memorize by rote. For the vast majority of the students, they have no clue what it means, even though the students can sometimes even reproduce minor variations (say to prove that sqrt(3) is irrational).

We should learn from the physicists. Quantum Field Theory and the Renormalization Group Method make much more exciting mathematics then many a rigorous mathematical theory. It is OK to teach statements of theorems, and teach the students how to use it, without torturing them with the proof.

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