## 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:

- Is Bullock a mathematician? (There is at least a hint about the
answer in the article!)
- 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).
- ``Mathematics is comprehensible precisely
*because* it is
abstract'' (p. 736). - According to Bullock, what makes mathematical metaphors useful in
helping us understand the real world?
- How does one understand a mathematical metaphor?
- ``Metaphors do not have answers, they have implications'' (p. 737)
- Can anyone learn to speak/understand the language of mathematics?
Should everyone?
- Bullock says most mathematics education is akin to ``conversational
drill'' (p. 740).
- Describe Bullock's view of what mathematical education should be
like.
- ``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