Archive for January 17th, 2010

What makes mathematics hard

January 17, 2010

What makes mathematics hard is both how easy it is to make mistakes and how difficult it is to hide them. Contrast this with poetry. It’s as easy to make mistakes in poetry — write stunningly bad poetry — as it is to blunder in mathematics. But it is much easier to cover up poetic blunders. Why that is is extremely interesting …

This is a quote (in a footnote) from Judy Azzouni’s How and why mathematics is unique as a social practice — which is one of the 18 unconventional essays on the nature of mathematics.

This is the third essay that I am reading from the book — that of Azzouni. The other two I have read so far are Leslie A White’s The locus of mathematical reality: an anthropological footnote and William Timothy Gowers’ Does mathematics need a philosophy?

All the pieces I have read so far, as with the above quote, are quite provocative and are interesting even if one disagrees with some of what it said in the piece. The remaining essays look pretty promising too!

Strongly recommended!