Comments on Mathematics and Education

Lee Lady

What Is Mathematics?

What Makes Mathematics So Hard?

My Attitude Towards Teaching


How to Explain Mathematics


Universities and Learning

At the beginning of the century, a college education was seen as a bauble for the rich, a finishing school for children of the upper class or a place where the youth of the nouveau riche could mingle with the upper class and acquire social graces and upward social mobility. (Upward economic mobility was not the issue for families that could afford to send their children to college.) A college education, which filled the minds of its students with esoteric knowledge and unrealistic theories, was looked on unfavorably by employers in such practical fields as journalism or engineering.

But as the century got older, gradually college became seen as the means by which citizens could become above average, and it was regarded as unfair that this opportunity should be available only to the rich.

By the Sixties, the construction of new colleges and a variety of scholarship programs (most notably the GI Bill) had resulted in a large mass of new college graduates. Discouragingly enough, though, many of these new graduates turned out to be only average after all. It was then realized that we had underestimated what would be required to raise a person above the norm. For many, at least a Masters degree would be essential. Therefore money was poured into creating new graduate programs and expanding existing ones, and creating new graduate fellowships, such as those established by the National Defense Education Act. But by the end of the Sixties, it was becoming apparent that even a graduate degree was not adequate to make someone above average. It became common to find PhDs driving taxi-cabs and painting houses.

Going to college has become the normal rite of passage for a moderately intelligent middle-class youth. Anyone who has the ability and the desire can now become educated, but the American dream of having a standard formula that any person can follow to become successful and above average is still unfulfilled.


Why the Professor Can't Teach, by Morris Kline

My Life As a Professor


Starting Out as a Mathematician



From time to time, people send me email relating to some of the articles here. Most of these people have agreed to let me include their comments on this web page. Some of these follow:

Teaching Maths in the public schools

Giving Students Power Over the Teacher

How to Read Mathematics


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