PriceÕs ŌMath MythsĶ


(This list, from January 1991, is by the late Justin Price, for many years a professor of mathematics at Purdue University. Price was particularly interested in math education, and his list captures the way a lot of the apathetic math students IÕve known seem to think about mathematics.  IÕve made just one change: his rule 8 gave a time limit of 30 seconds.  —Don Byrd, rev. July 2011)

1. Math is a bunch of formulas and rules.  Doing math means plugging numbers into formulas and moving symbols around using the rules.

2. Only a genius knows where the formulas and rules come from. So just accept them and use them.

3. Memorize everything and youÕll be OK.

4. Know how mathematical operations work. You never need to know why they work.

5. The most important thing is getting answers. If you get the right answer, that proves that you understand the math.

6. Every problem has an answer.

7. To solve a problem, just follow the steps in the book. Any problem that is not exactly like one worked in the book is unfair.

8. Any problem that takes more than five minutes is either impossible or unfair.

9. Story problems are unfair.

10. There is one way to do a problem—the bookÕs way. No other way is allowed. Guessing the answer is strictly illegal.

11. Common sense is OK in real life, but it has nothing to do with math.

12. Reading and writing are for English classes; they have nothing to do with math.

13. Math comes in separate subjects: algebra, geometry, calculus, etc. There are no connections between the subjects.

14. Math can never be interesting or fun.