Who Cares If Math is Useful?

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The last time we saw Dr. Eugenia Cheng, she was on The Colbert Show cooking up some fun mathematical recipes.

This time, she’s on PBS talking about how the usefulness is math is…a burden?  What could she possibly mean?

Visit the video to hear what she’s talking about.


Watch the video linked above (less than 4 minutes).  Answer the following questions in a couple of paragraphs.

  1.  Why does Dr. Cheng feel that we should let go of the idea that math is “useful”?
  2. What are some adjectives Dr. Cheng uses instead of “useful”?
  3. Dr. Cheng gives a number of examples of math that wasn’t “useful” until centuries after it was discovered.  Describe a couple of those examples (internet cryptography, viruses, soccer balls, etc.).
  4. How does Dr. Cheng suggest we “break the cycle” of how students (particularly elementary students) view mathematics?



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