A Puzzling Solution for Math Education

The Wall Street Journal – Frank Wilczek

“You might not expect to find challenging mathematics on supermarket magazine stands, but it is there in abundance. New collections of cerebral puzzles are always coming out (including a weekly feature in this section). Many, such as Sudoku, involve pattern recognition. Others, such as Kakuro and Kenken, bring in simple arithmetic. Still others smuggle in graph theory and topology. My favorites are logic puzzles. Though never labeled as such, all of these puzzles involve the same kinds of thinking as formal mathematics. Yet many people think of “math” as something scary and of puzzles as something fun. The reason for this paradox is that they’ve been misled about what mathematics is. Their main exposure to something with that name, in school, is often an off-putting ritual featuring memorization and mindless replication of useless abstractions.”

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