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SarahC comments on Open Thread June 2010, Part 3 - Less Wrong

6 Post author: Kevin 14 June 2010 06:14AM

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Comment author: [deleted] 14 July 2010 02:28:28AM 4 points [-]

Just to be clear: I'm not against rigor. Rigor is there for a good reason.

But I do think that there's a bias in math against making it easy to learn. It's weird.

  1. Math departments, anecdotally in nearly all the colleges I've heard of, are terrible at administrative conveniences. Math will be the only department that doesn't put lecture notes online, won't announce the correct textbook for the course, won't produce a syllabus, won't announce the date of the final exam. Physics, computer science, etc., don't do this to their students. This has nothing to do with rigor; I think it springs from the assumption that such details are trivial.

  2. I've noticed a sort of aesthetic bias (at least in pure math) against pictures and "selling points." I recall one talk where the speaker emphasized how transformative his result could be for physics -- it was a very dramatic lecture. The gossip afterwards was all about how arrogant and salesman-like the speaker was. That cultural instinct -- to disdain flash and drama -- probably helps with rigorous habits of thought, but it ruins our chances to draw in young people and laymen. And I think it can even interfere with comprehension (people can easily miss the understated.)