Quotation for the week: Descartes

What I found liberating about university mathematics, after years of the school variety, was that suddenly it became less important to memorise (for example) hundreds of trig formulae than to understand how to derive them. It’s nice to know that no less a figure than René Descartes shared my feelings on this:

I have observed that algebra indeed, as it is usually taught, is so restricted by definite rules and formulas of calculation, that it seems rather a confused kind of an art, by the practice of which the mind is in a certain manner disturbed and obscured, than a science by which it is cultivated and made acute.

(From the Discours de la méthode (1637), translated and quoted by Augustus de Morgan in A Budget of Paradoxes (1872).)

I don’t think he’d have been a fan of the modern Scottish education system, somehow.

(DP)

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2 Responses to Quotation for the week: Descartes

  1. Ben Snow says:

    I don’t know many fans of the Scottish education system, including the majority of teachers I’ve met…

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