139/365 I’m Learning to Think Mathematically, and it’s Not What I Thought #edchat

Because learning how online, open programs work feels relevant to my new job, I’ve enrolled in two classes and jumped back in to a free online learning environment as well.

I’m signed up for a skillshare course as well as a Coursera course right now. I’ll talk about the two of them in more depth later. For the moment, there’s a piece of learning from my Introduction to Mathematical Thinking course I’d like to share.

I went ahead and ordered the optional text from the professor. My expectations were low because (1) he wrote the book, and (2) he self-published the book. In my experience, this doesn’t do much to shore up hopes of quality.

I started reading last night, and I’m excited to jump back in tonight.

One sentence sold me on it:

The algebra that the Arabic-speaking traders developed in the eighth and ninth centuries (the word algebra comes from the Arabic term al-jabr, meaning “restoration” or “reunion of broken parts”) to increase efficiency in their business transactions remains as useful and important todat as it was then…

I put the book down for a second after I read that to think about the meaning of the word. I’ve had algebra as part of my formal education for more than a decade and a half, and no one has ever explained what the word mean and how it fits with what we’re trying to do.

I remember the explanation of how to do it. More to the point, I remember that it was explained. I remember drills, homework, and tests. I do not remember anyone saying, “This is algebra, and this is what it does.”

I’m sticking with the course because (1) I’m genuinely interested in mathematical thinking and (2) The sentence above gave me a sign that we’ll be thinking not just about the how and the what, but the why as well as we learn.

That, as it turns out, is important to me.

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