Teaching & Research Sundries

‘There is a tendency in much contemporary literature to present material in a highly systematised fashion, in which an abstract definition will typically come before the list of examples that reveals the original motivation for that definition. Paedogogically, a disadvantage of this approach is that the student is not actually shown the genesis of concepts — how and why they evolved — and is thereby taught nothing about the mechanisms of creative thinking. Apart from lending the topic an often illusory impression of completedness, the method also has the drawback of inflating prerequisites to understanding. Category theory has more than once been referred to as ‘abstract nonsense’. In my experience, that reaction is the result of features that are not intrinsic to the subject itself, but are due merely to the style of some of its expositors. The approach I have taken here is to try to move always from the particular to the general, following through the steps of the abstraction process until the abstract concept emerges naturally. The starting points are elementary (in the ‘first principles’ sense), and at the finish it would be quite appropriate for the reader to feel that (s)he had just arrived at the subject, rather than reached the end of the story.’
Robert Goldblatt. Topoi -- The Categorial Analysis of Logic, 1979, page ix.

 

‘But anyone who has done mathematics knows what comes first—a problem … Sometimes a solution is a set of axioms! … In developing and understanding a subject, axioms come late. Then in formal presentations, they come early … The view that mathematics is in essence derivations from axioms is backward. In fact, it's wrong.’
Reuben Hersh. What is Mathematics, Really? Jonathan Cape, London, 1997, page 6.

 

A few sources for reflection (in alphabetical order by first author surname):

Julia Belluz, Brad Plumer, Brian Resnick The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists at Vox.com
Daisy Christodoulou Seven Myths About Education
Mathias Felleisen (Non)refereed conferences
Nigel Gilbert, Michael Mulkay Opening Pandora's Box, A Sociological Analysis of Scientists' Discourse
Yves Gingras Bibliometrics and Research Evaluation, Uses and Abuses.
Alessio Guglielmi Politics
E. C. R. Hehner the Meaning of Mathematics, Scientific Publications, and Teaching Tactics in his non-technical essays
Reuben Hersh Online papers, for example The Ideal Mathematician [my pdf copy] co-written with Philip J. David.
What is Mathematics, Really?
E. D. Hirsch, Jr. `You can always look it up' … or can you?
Paul Lockhart A Mathematician's Lament [my pdf copy]
Bertrand Meyer What Is Your Research Culture?
Part 1: The Questionnaire
Part 2: Background
Part 3: The Web of Science
Research Evaluation for Computer Science
Matthew Might Some advice in his blog
MSCS Editors Bibliometrics and the Curators of Orthodoxy [my pdf copy]
Peter Norvig Teach yourself programming in 10 years
David L. Parnas Stop the Numbers Game [my pdf copy]
Ken Robinson Out of Our Minds
Gian-Carlo Rota Indiscrete Thoughts
Mark Tarver Why I am Not a Professor or The Decline and Fall of the British University [my pdf copy]
Jeannette M. Wing CS Woes: Deadline-Driven Research