Math games for girls!

Teaching Math to People Who Think They Hate It

Steven Strogatz, Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University, wants to change how non-math majors who think they don’t like math, view math. He believes the solution lies in the way math is taught to liberal arts majors. The curriculum he teaches is called Discovering the Art of Mathematics: Mathematical Inquiry in the Liberal Arts (DAoM).

The DAoM approach is based on inquiry-based learning. The students are not taught by a lecture, rather they lead the way in investigations, experiments and problems. DAoM’s website states their goal ““to nurture healthy and informed perceptions of mathematics, mathematical ways of thinking, and the ongoing impact of mathematics not only on STEM fields but also on the liberal arts and humanities.”

Photo: Jessica Lahey

Photo: Jessica Lahey

One puzzle Prof. Strogatz asked his students to do was to  to figure out how to fold a piece of paper in such a way that they could then cut one straight line with scissors to create a scalene triangle.  Only one student was able to complete the task in half and hour, but when Prof. Strogatz offered to help, the students refused. Strogatz says “They were having a true mathematical moment. That is, they were deeply engaged with a puzzle that made sense to them, and they were enjoying the struggle. They were feeling what anyone who loves math feels, the pleasure of thinking, the pleasure of wrestling with a problem that fascinates”

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