*Abstract Algebra*-- a standard undergraduate abstract algebra text -- for a middle school algebra text, and wrote a bad review of it, saying things like:

As we see from these excerpts from the text, Dummit and Foote are disciples of "new math," a doctrine discredited in the 70's. Too often, strange symbols and jargon take the place of clear English prose. Extraneous concepts like "sets"--much less "finite nilpotent groups" or "invariant factor decompositions" or "symmetric multilinear maps"--are merely obstacles to a student's understanding of algebra. Sadly, the authors, holed up in their ivory towers, have not yet learned these vital educational lessons.Well, of course! It's

*not*good as a text for middle schoolers, because it was never supposed to be! (And it probably comes with a preface saying "this is a text for juniors and seniors in college majoring in math", or something like that; can anybody who has a copy of the book confirm this?)

I think it might be a parody. I

*hope*it's a parody, of what someone who

*expected*a middle school algebra text and

*got*an abstract algebra text would say. And I think every mathematician has had that moment where they told someone they're taking "algebra" and people say "but didn't you learn that years ago?"

And the author makes a point, perhaps inadvertently - there is a time and a place for the precise language of higher-level mathematics, and middle school isn't it.

## 14 comments:

This old one again? We really need to get a central repository of "people being stupid about math on the web".

with a line like "...aced the math portion of the sat with a 590...", i can't help but think that it's anything other than a joke.

Adequacy.org is a defunct satirical website known for attracting unwitting visitors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adequacy.org

Thank Jeebus, it was a joke. The review was bad enough, but comments (as usual) were worse. I'm not sure I was ready for that level of math-trollery (accusing people of making up Hilbert? where do they come up with this stuff?).

http://www.adequacy.org/stories/2002.2.21.224440.364.html point 5.

Yes, yes, collected anonymi.. It's a joke. Thanks for not playing along.

Joke or not, it has an eminent precedent. Hardy and Wright's 'An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers' had 'an introduction to arithmetic' as a working title that was abandoned as it might have led to 'misunderstandings about [its] content'. Not that various 'sat acers' like Dyson were put off, and instead found it a source of inspiration.

We really need to get a central repository of "people being stupid about math on the web".Like the Maths Department of Crank Dot Net, but bigger! And, like, Web 2.0 and stuff.

a joke of course

(and a funny one too).

serre's _a_course_in_arithmetic_

deserves mention in this context.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adequacy.org

"This book evolved out of notes by the authors from courses given at various universities over a period of about thirteen years. The backgrounds of the students in these courses were quite diverse, ranging from freshman and sophomore undergraduates to beginning graduate students...." (p. xiii)

I think that's all they have to say about the subject.

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