Show More

Prof. Woody Dudley Cited in Article Making 'The Case Against Algebra II'

September 6, 2013

Underwood Dudley 2009"Underwood Dudley, a number theorist who taught for many years at DePauw University, is another longtime critic of math requirements," writes Nicholson Baker in the September 2013 issue of Harper's magazine. "He's against them because he loves the subject." Baker's article, the cover story, is titled "Wrong Answer: The Case Against Algebra II."

"As (Dudley) wrote in the American Mathematical Monthly in 1987: 'Mathematics is so useful that there could be no civilization without it, and it is so beautiful that some theorems and their proofs -- those which cause us to gasp, or to laugh out loud with delight -- should be hanging in museums.' And yet: 'The vast majority of the human race, and the vast majority of the college-educated human race never need any mathematics beyond arithmetic to survive successfully.'"

Baker writes, "We must stop telling students lies, Dudley maintains, to the discomfiture of some of his colleagues. 'We cannot justify teaching mathematics to 18-yearolds by asserting that they will find it useful,' he wrote. 'We cannot claim that we are presenting beauty, either. We are, of course, but what percentage of our students can see it, however dimly?' I called Dudley and asked him pointblank whether we should be requiring Algebra II of all high schoolers. 'Good heavens, no,' he said. 'Forcing people to take mathematics is just terrible. We shouldn't do it. But we are.' "

The September issues is on newsstands now; the article is available online to subscribers.

Woody Dudley, professor emeritus of mathematics at DePauw, is the author of Numerology: Or, What Pythagoras Wrought, Is Mathematics Inevitable? A Miscellany, The Trisectors and Mathematical Cranks. He was quoted in an ABC News story last December.

Source: Harper's