The Age of Maths Phobia

A typical thing from a modern textbook on Electronics

A suggestion for terrorists. Don't use bombs, use maths instead -- it's more frightening for modern generation

I find maths phobia in most modern technical books (not only those “for dummies”). First, in the introduction, they proudly say that they try their best to explain the subject matter using as little maths as possible.

Then, in the places where they really have to use a formula or equation, they precede it with a paragraph full of apologies and assurances that they won’t torture the reader with maths too cruelly in the following pages.

Many things, that could clearly be explained with just a handful of elementary maths calculations are substituted with lengthy obscure explanations and silly examples from everyday life that have little relevance to the subject they are trying to explain and are totally meaningless for readers from outside of the authors’ country (American authors are notorious for using examples from baseball).

I recently watched a course of video lectures for the CCNA test. One lecture was about binary maths. It was a 1 hour lecture, in which the lecturer devoted the first 40 (forty!! 00101000 !!!) minutes persuading the students not to be afraid of maths. He explained the subject of the lecture within the remaining 20 minutes. I am not exaggerating, I watched the lecture again specifically to note the time.

I wonder what scares you in the formulas on the picture? What kind of maths is not scary for you? Does 2+2 look scary? What about 3+3? What kind of approach modern educators use to develop such a phobia?

I am sure that every student 50 or 100 years ago (I’m sorry if 100 is too big a number for you) would laugh if you called these formulas scary. At least, old books don’t write silly apologies for using maths.

UPDATE: I asked the same question on LinkedIn. Read the discussion there.

Published in: on 14/04/2012 at 07:14  Comments Off on The Age of Maths Phobia  
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