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This is an email from Ravings of a Quarantined Mathematician, a newsletter by MathAdam.

A Perfect Math Curriculum

Peter Taylor is a professor of mathematics and statistics at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. I recently came across this brilliant statement from him:

A crucial difference between English and math curricula is that in English the books come first and the curriculum is then based on these, whereas in math, the curriculum comes first and then the books are based on that. In the first case, the books are essentially artistic; in the second case, the art is lost.

Do these words resonate with you as they do with me?

In British Columbia, the students headed to post-secondary mathematics take precalculus. The pre irks me. Twelve years of maths study and still in the pre stage. As if calculus is the real math.

I would love to teach a high school maths class where I have full rein of the curriculum. When the students arrive, they see this on the board:

That is my precalculus curriculum. Over the next several weeks, the students learn the notation. They learn about infinite series and partial sums. They learn the factorization of polynomials. Rational expressions. Trigonometry and the unit circle. Even complex numbers. These are all standards in a precalculus education.

You may recognize the above as the famous Basel Problem. The curriculum I describe is necessary to understand Euler’s solution. The students finish the course with something to show for it. They are able to articulate a famous proof.

Most importantly, the students get to play. They get to struggle with problems. They brainstorm together at the whiteboard. Homework isn’t about getting the right answer.

It’s about the journey.



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Adam Hrankowski, ADHD

Canadian math guy, experimenting with fiction. Find my new scifi/fantasy serial here: