If Arthur Benjamin got an extra minute on stage …

Posted by: Matthew Trost

The TED Blog caught up with Arthur Benjamin after his talk on why we should stop mandating that students learn calculus in school — to ask him what he would have done with an extra minute on stage. Here’s what he had to say:


Arthur Benjamin: If I had an extra minute, I’d also talk about how we shouldn’t only show the mathematics that’s useful — and statistics is useful for being an educated consumer and citizen. We could replace a lot of the drudgerous mathematics that’s being taught with math that’s purely fun, with no real promise of “you’re going to use this,” but just “this is beautiful stuff.”

You can go ape over patterns in Pascal’s triangle, in the Fibonacci numbers, in chaos, in fractals. These things that are just positively inspirational. We don’t make — I mean, I’m listening to this music. It’s inspirational. But I didn’t have to be drilled with how to draw my notes properly and learn all this music theory before I got exposed to that kind of music. I think the same sort of thing could happen in mathematics.

Why not give them a taste of beautiful mathematics in addition to the useful stuff?

Photo: TED / Michael Brands