Mathematics as a Language

An image of the Mathematics as a Language understanding and using maths book

understanding and using maths

by Dr. Sara M. McMurry, Emeritus, School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin

Paperback: 268 pages
Publisher: Living Edition
Price: €15.00 (+P&P)

“Over the last decade the mathematical ability of students entering University has been badly affected by the emphasis on rote learning in schools. Consequently students studying subjects which require mathematics have noticeably greater difficulty than in the past.

The book is aimed at undergraduates and teachers of maths in schools (many of whom are not maths graduates). It provides an approach to learning mathematics, which will not only help the reader to understand and use the basic ideas covered in the book, but also provides a way of learning which should help students to get to grips with new mathematical topics. It promotes the use of mathematical reasoning as opposed to the memorizing of recipes. Learning maths by rote is like using a phrase book to communicate in a foreign language. To be able to use mathematics it is necessary to understand its vocabulary and structure—that is, to learn the language of mathematics.”

(by Dr. Sara M. McMurry, Emeritus, School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin)

The author, Sara M. McMurry, taught mathematics to science students in Trinity College Dublin for over four decades and is also the author of a text book on quantum mechanics published in 1983.

The reader of this book will have met the topics it covers in school, but, in order to gain an understanding of more sophisticated topics, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the basics. Consequently the book starts with a chapter on the language of arithmetic. Exercises at the end of each section prompt the reader to use mathematical reasoning. Learning to understand mathematics develops logical reasoning skills which are useful in many situations that we meet in life. So learning mathematics in a way that develops these logical skills is an important part of a general education, and is of benefit to everyone even if they never use anything beyond arithmetic after they leave school.