Mathematical nolstalgia


Do you agree that nostalgia is not what it used to be?

Perhaps the article below written for a school newspaper by a Form 5 (Year 11) student in 1963 will clarify this oxymoron.

Mathematics! This is a subject that is regarded with apprehension and fear by a lot of people. But why? Mathematics is not really anything to be afraid of, and when used properly can be a tremendous asset.
Perhaps because some parents pass on to their children a prejudice against this subject, many fear it, but it is possibly the easiest subject in the curriculum. You will begin to see why I say this if you consider some of the other subjects. In History, Science and Geography we are given pages of notes to learn, parrot fashion and must rely on our memory for good results. We can use no logical reasoning to deduce, for example, that London burned in 1666. We learn about Indonesia in third year Geography and then in fourth year we forget Indonesia and learn about Australia instead.
In mathematics we can use logic to reason that since y=x and x=z^2 then y=z^2. We do not have pages of unrelated material to learn by heart because there exists a strong relationship between all the points covered in the syllabus. What we learn in one year acts as a foundation on which to build in following years.
Success in mathematics comes with the ability to see and use logical steps in solving a problem. Once this ability is mastered many obstacles disappear.
Many of us may not realise the importance of mathematics. Without it civilisation would not have advanced. Television and engineering would be impossible. Many of the modern essential devices of the home would not exist. In short, mathematics is the road to better living.
Mathematics is the most rewarding of all subjects, for who can deny the elation that comes after having solved a difficult problem. Try to teach yourself with problems and you will find that you can retain essential facts more readily.
A good mathematics teacher will guide his students to discover facts for themselves. In this way they will learn to master the subject.
Remember, mathematics can be enjoyable if you apply your knowledge logically and see in every problem a challenge worth accepting.

I’m sure that the student, now at a most venerable age, can take comfort in the fact that his arguments are as valid today as when he proposed them more than 50 years ago.

Continuing our nostalgia trek, here is a joke found in the same issue of the school newspaper.
Is it a reference to mathematical probability?
Question: Why do elephants wear shoes with ripple soles?
Answer: To give the ants a 50/50 chance.