Acquiring Mathematical Literacy - Y Does an X Have To Be Involved?

Dear Henry, 

The Washington Post ran an article regarding the correlation between mathematical proficiency and financial success.  They even offered a math problem as a test.  I tried to solve this math problem and got the answer wrong, and I had thought, until today, I was fairly good at math.

It turns out, most people got the answer wrong and the general lack of mathematical knowledge is affecting all sorts of our financial decisions (including a looming ignorance of interest rates and debt).  The lack of mathematical ability, and its repercussions on the finances of the country, reminds me of a quote from Joan Didion's book Slouching Toward Bethlehem where she wrote "The ability to think for one's self depends upon one's mastery of the language", I am afraid that we (as a people) don't have a good understanding the language of math and it is causing us financial woe.

I think the problem with math is a problem in education.  Recently, while at a writing seminar, I spoke to a math teacher about this, she is currently writing a book about a new method of teaching, one that places math in the context of real-life problems, and includes other disciplines (like science, history, and logical reasoning), rather than by teaching math by solving an esoteric formula that looks for Y.  I am interested in reading about her successes with this teaching model.

I do wish there were more relatable math books, written in regular English and approachable, written like the Physicist Andrew Thomas managed to do in his book series Hidden in Plain Sight. I even thought Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time was relatively readable, although I don't know if I would have thought so, had I not read a couple of the Hidden in Plain Sight books first. So, I challenge a mathematician to write a readable math book - or at least direct me to one that already exists.  Because I, especially after today's math mishap would really like to study.

xoxo a.d.


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