Hi folks. This page is a book proposal for Humane Math: Fixing the inhumanity of twentieth century math. The Image is self-satire. Links to PDF versions of the five components of the submission are below. The Overview and the Table of Contents are short and extended summaries respectively. Chapter 2 is a polished draft that leads off Section I of the book. The remaining two pieces include Marketing Information and Resumes. Although Humane Math does address some of the same ideas as iconicmath.com (this website), the book itself is intended for a semi-popular audience while the website content is mostly technical, thus making the book and the website substantively different reading experiences.
One Page Overview
This Short Overview is what you might read on the book cover.
Extended Table of Contents
The Extended Table of Contents includes a short paragraph description of each of the book’s proposed 21 chapters.
Chapter 2: Authentic Math
The Authentic Math chapter makes the distinction between abstract and practical math. From the Extended Table of Contents:
Authentic math refers to the mathematical skills that people use naturally, the skills that contribute to good citizenship and to quality of life. In spite of the simplicity of authentic math, and unlike any other discipline, we begin teaching the ancient Greek theory of abstract mathematics in early grade school. Authentic numbers are estimates, they are rarely exact. Authentic counting rarely goes past 100. Authentic addition works differently in different contexts. Authentic geometry is anchored to physical measurement. Authentic logic does not require symbolic deduction.
This Marketing Information is part of what is necessary to prepare a book for publication. Sections include the rationale, novelty, breadth and style of the Book; quantification of the Target Audience; qualifications of the Author; identification of other books that define both the Competition and the Established Interest; Marketing and Promotional ideas; and Marketing Extensions beyond the book itself. This information is primarily to help literary agents and publishers decide whether or not Humane Math is worth publishing. Some snippets taken directly from the About the Book section are included below under Rationale.
Humane Math (HM) is for people who hate math, for people who resent the inadequacy and insecurity that math education has caused them to feel. The core idea of HM is unique: math itself is to blame for math phobia. Math anxiety is a sane reaction to being forced to do the degrading symbolic math tasks taught in schools. Those who rue math were right all along, math education is unreasonable because math itself is built upon illusion and theology. Precollege math does not work as advertised, it is not connected to reality or to utility at all. For all but the approximately one-hundred-thousand math professionals, mathematical ideas are irrelevant; for 80% of us, twentieth century math is an evil.
The four sections of HM demonstrate, clearly and simply, why math does not work, what specifically is wrong, how pervasive and destructive this problem has become, and how specifically to modify math to make it work again for people. The content is simple grade school arithmetic (i.e. how to count and how to add) and elementary logic, not taught in grade school but an essential component of clear thinking. The issue is both timely and critical: the rapid spread of enforced mathematical thinking is actively divorcing humanity from our authentic world of experience.
HM helps readers to regain confidence and perspective, but unlike all other math self-help books, HM fixes math while supporting rather than trying to fix those who have been damaged by math education. “Even you can learn to do math!”…but only if you are willing to abandon your common sense and your natural understanding of reality. HM is not a collection of tips and techniques, it is a closely reasoned and intuitively obvious discussion of how twentieth-century math has abandoned its historically human roots and its necessary connections to the human body. HM returns math to its inherent simplicity.
Although there is plenty of criticism about math education, mathematics is apparently beyond criticism. Math is not recognized as physical activity, we think of it only as abstract symbolic concepts. So we do not hold math accountable for its impact on our physical world! HM shows us that the recently lost connection between body, earth and math can be regained by generalizing the communication of mathematical ideas to include iconic forms such as drawing, sculpture and interactivity. Iconic math frees mathematical concepts from the tyranny of their typography simply by eliminating the restriction that math must be written as a string of symbols. This broader perspective on communication allows a reconnection of mathematics to the Earth. Pre-symbolic communication become available. Addition is putting stuff together; multiplication is ways of arranging stuff.
HM has criticism, analysis, innovation, substance and uniqueness. Almost every chapter of HM includes provocative ideas, and then demonstrates that these ideas are both reasonable and descriptively accurate:
• Counting does not work.
• Counting is not the right place to begin to teach math.
• The ubiquitous place-value notation for numbers is clumsy and inefficient.
• We cannot trust what we are taught about simple arithmetic.
• Math education does not teach math.
• Symbolic math disassociates us from common sense and from intuition.
• Math is intuitive when the symbols are removed.
• We should stop teaching math as a subject until college.
• Western mathematical abstraction is a limited and bias perspective on what math is.
• Math disassociates us from common sense and from intuition.
• The concepts of modern math are essentially theological.
• Symbolic math is ecologically unsound.
• The true/false duality of logic is unnecessary and destructive.
• Rational thinking is achieved by forgetting irrelevant information.
• Digital convergence is disassociating us from reality itself.
Our culture is in transition. Not only have we embraced the internet, our new virtual worlds provide dynamic, interactive, social, visual communications and entertainment. Our antiquated schools still teach reading, writing and arithmetic, how to encode experience into symbolic knowledge. Our media culture has little need for symbolic codes, instead it provides simulation of experience, it shows us how to live, it involves us. Reading has evolved into video, film and active dialogue. Writing has evolved into tweets, crisp texting, and direct interaction. Math has not yet evolved. Rather math has split into three. It has become a powerful tool for shaping society, it has become the hidden digital language of computers, and it has become a symbolic torment forced upon us in schools.
Math phobia is a wicked problem. It is perpetuated by the very agency tasked with solving it. It splits parents and communities into warring factions. The blame for math phobia is placed upon its victims. The schools and school districts that are expected to solve the problem are out-of-touch with the problem itself, as well as with the potential solutions. There is no central authority in the US school system that can lead a concerted effort into finding a solution. Once a person educated into math phobia leaves school that person is abandoned, there is no longer an institutional incentive to fix the problem.
HM explores the costs of symbolic math, from its abandonment of human values to its complete detachment from reality. It shows us why we dislike school math, and how we can repair the damage. But the danger of symbolic detachment is far greater, since mathematics underlies the digital convergence of electronic technologies. We are living in virtuality, the apparent world that we construct from mathematical abstraction. We electronically reduce our authentic reality to streams of zeros and ones. We transmit those streams to electronic devices that then mathemagically construct the virtual worlds of radio, television, video games, webpages, text messages, GPS tracking, and digital avatars. HM explores how the other-worldly abstraction of digital logic has led humanity to the brink of an ultimate alienation, our detachment from reality itself.