Abe, Jehovah, Will, and Euclid

I read today that Abraham Lincoln carried 3 books with him when he traveled: The Bible, the works of Shakespeare, and Euclid’s Elements. Abe apparently thought that Elements represented the possibility of proof beyond doubt.

Now that’s an interesting snapshot into the things Lincoln wrestled with (according to an amusing commercial I just watched, Abe’s favorite sport was wrestling). The Bible would not represent proof beyond doubt. I assume that for Lincoln it represented a guide to life and a hope for a higher purpose in one’s actions. Shakespeare would represent or embody the complexities of life.

Then there’s the Elements.

And of course, the Bible and Shakespeare have their unsurpassed language. I wonder about Euclid’s readability. I may need to check out a copy from the library.
OK, I just placed it on order. I’ll read it right after Lud-in-the-Mists.

And this got me to thinking about what I teach in math. I rarely teach any proofs. Our students don’t know proof by induction. I was taught that in 9th grade – but that was from the senior’s textbook that my summer school teacher gave me. That does seem like a pre-calculus thing.

Yet there’s nothing about that on the SAT I’s or II’s or in the AP Calculus tests. How will anyone learn to think like a mathematician if I only teach them math for scientists and engineers?

I’ll have to chew this over as the year winds down and see how I may want to incorporate this into whatever classes I teach next year.

About mutecypher

Old. Bold. Deal with it.
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