I love math. I understand some people probably shuddered just reading that; but I’ve always loved math. Like anyone, I go through droughts where I don’t even want to look at numbers; but somehow I always come back. Math is a wonderful world to get lost in, and I couldn’t be happier to be caught up in it.

That being said, it wasn’t until I entered the University of Connecticut that I got a sense of why it speaks to me, and even then it wasn’t right away. Stepping outside of my own experience, it’s no secret that many people have a phobia of the subject. Someone who isn’t quantitatively inclined can only take so many years of grade school number crunching before they snap.

That’s a real shame, though, especially as it becomes increasingly clear to me that the point of math isn’t just the mindless manipulation of numbers. When I think of “doing math,” I think of arguments and structure and formalism. I think of the struggle we undertake to understand the world better. I think of the communities that math brings together, the collaboration in the pursuit of something greater.

Math is not so different from English, contrary to the “reading, writing, arithmetic” dichotomy that we are raised on. I write these articles week after week for the same reason I write proofs: To see through an argument. So, where does mathematics go wrong to alienate so many?

The problem is that we aren’t really teaching math; we’re teaching quantitative skills. Now, in a world dominated by computers, financiers and STEM jobs, we need people to know good old-fashioned number crunching. This doesn’t need to come at the expense of the more beautiful, artful side of mathematics, though. The benefits of a strong math background have other benefits on general education.

Any sort of proof-writing is foreign to most high schoolers, as it is usually pushed until the university level. At UConn, it is first formally taught in a class called “Transitions to Advanced Mathematics.” But that’s patently ridiculous, as there’s nothing particularly advanced about learning basic logic and argument. Even younger children can understand the concept. I know this because, when I worked as a math tutor for elementary and middle school children, I was able to teach basic proof techniques to fourth graders with great success. And you know what? It was the most excited I’ve ever seen them about math.

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