Guest post by C.K.RAJU
Did you find math difficult in school? Does your child? If so, what is the solution: change the teacher or change the child? Blaming the teacher or the child for math difficulties is a common but unsound explanation. Thus, problems with teachers or students should equally affect all subjects, not only math.The right solution is to change math. That seems impossible. People naively believe that math is universal. In fact, the math taught today, from middle school onward, is called formal math; it began only in the 20th
c. with David Hilbert and Bertrand Russell. It differs from the normal math which people earlier did for thousands of years, across the world, and still do in kindergarten.Formal math adds enormously to the difficulty of math but nothing to its practical value. The practical value of math comes from efficient techniques of calculation, used in normal math, not prolix formal proofs. For example, the proof of 1+1=2 took Whitehead and Russell 368 pages of dense symbolism in their Principia
. That proof is a liability in a grocer’s shop. In contrast, normal math is easy. One apple and one apple make two apples as most people learn in kindergarten. So should we switch back to normal math at all levels?
Continue reading Mathematics, Decolonization and Censorship: C. K. Raju
Guest post by C. K. RAJU
[Frontline carried a historically ill-informed article on Indian calculus which also had mathematical and casteist errors. When the errors were pointed out, the magazine ignored it, contrary to journalistic ethics. Here is Prof Raju’s response to that article.]
Frontline (23 Jan 2015) published an excessively ill-informed article by Biman Nath on “Calculus & India”. The article suppressed the existence of my 500 page tome on Cultural Foundations of Mathematics: the Nature of Mathematical Proof and the Transmission of Calculus from India to Europe in the 16th c. (Pearson Longman, 2007). This suppression was deliberate, for Nath and Frontline ignored it even after it was pointed out to them. They also refused to correct serious mathematical and casteist errors in the article. That is contrary to journalistic ethics. To understand my response, some background is needed.
According to my above book and various related articles, the calculus developed in India and was transmitted to Europe. The second part of the story is lesser known. As often happens with imported knowledge, calculus was misunderstood in Europe. Later that inferior misunderstanding was given back to India through colonial education, and continues to be taught to this day just by declaring it as “superior”. That claim of superiority was never cross-checked to see if it is any different from the other flimsy claims of superiority earlier made by the West, for centuries, for example the racist claim that white-skinned people are “superior”. Continue reading Frontline’s Calculus of Caste: C. K. Raju