[extropy-chat] Maths ability
lcorbin at tsoft.com
Sat Mar 4 18:35:59 UTC 2006
> I'm not laughing, Ben. I've met other people who, no matter how hard
> they truly and honestly try, will never be comfortable with algebra; who
> will never understand the fundamental theorem of integral calculus.
This is only a *slight* exaggeration. Unbelievable effort can accomplish
relative miracles, but the gist of what Eliezer is saying is correct:
> I expect you'll get a lot of well-meaning advice from list members who
> simply can't conceive of what it's like to be bad at math. It is
> theoretically possible that, as they will helpfully tell you, you've
> just been doing it wrong. But in all probability, you're right about
> the brain rewiring.
Damn right. Me, every since I was a little kid, I had a "math line"
that quickly, visually, and easily came to me that told me the answer
to many problems. See "The Math Gene" by Keith Devlin.
> A personal anecdote: for most of my K-12 years, I never understood why
> high grades were at all important...
Yeah? Well, I *knew* Adrian when he was 13 (he's forgotten it).
Now I like teaching math to small groups of really smart kids. When I
interviewed Adrian, he was so far ahead of anyone else I was working
with that I never invited him back. It was simply effortless for him
to manipulate great gobs of algebra with glee.
> [Ben writes]
> > I can multiply any number by 11 in my head (any number at all, as
> > long as its not too big to keep it in my head), but it's just a
> > trick. I don't really understand the method. That's not maths, is
> > it? Anyone can learn the tricks. [No!] It's the understanding that's
> > important. [Mostly]
> Hate to break it to you, but sometimes it *is* the tricks. A whole lot
> of tricks.
But a lot of tricks were intuitively obvious to you when you were 13.
You got really good math genes at least from your dad LeRoy (who was
an acquaintance of mine).
> Of course, that depends on where exactly you draw the line
> between "tricks" and true understanding. Perhaps it might
> be more accurate to say, sometimes it seems like nothing
> more than a collection of tricks.
With emphasis on *seems*, of course.
Also, everyone keep in mind that there is of course a *correlation*
between IQ and math ability, or chess ability (which I have studied
all my life, some student of mine were masters and grandmasters).
These *talents* are greatly helped by high IQ, but they're something
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