Discussion points for Bullock's "Literacy" article

Bullock's article argues that mathematics should be considered a language which is used to construct metaphors for natural phenomena, and tries to derive from that a number of conclusions about how it should be taught.

Some issues for discussion:

  1. Is Bullock a mathematician? (There is at least a hint about the answer in the article!)

  2. Bullock claims that the underlying premise of much educational practice is that ``mathematics is a highly esoteric subject which, despite having some practical applications, possesses only tenuous connections to other areas of scholarship'' (p. 735).

  3. ``Mathematics is comprehensible precisely because it is abstract'' (p. 736).

  4. According to Bullock, what makes mathematical metaphors useful in helping us understand the real world?

  5. How does one understand a mathematical metaphor?

  6. ``Metaphors do not have answers, they have implications'' (p. 737)

  7. Can anyone learn to speak/understand the language of mathematics? Should everyone?

  8. Bullock says most mathematics education is akin to ``conversational drill'' (p. 740).

  9. Describe Bullock's view of what mathematical education should be like.

  10. ``In demanding picture books, one chooses illiteracy and is cut off from some of the most important ideas in the history of western civilization. This is a decision that should not be taken lightly by anyone who truly desires an education. That Americans seem unaware of the consequences of such a decision is hardly surprising, since they do not make it for themselves.'' (p. 743)

Fernando Q. Gouvêa ---- fqgouvea@colby.edu
Last modified: Tue Sep 16 09:21:02 1997