Published May 20, 2021 by Nancy Blachman

New York Times Opinion Piece: Finding Fun and Inspiration in Math

Image of football goal post with football flying through it, layered over graph paper with an X & Y axis.

To the Editor:

Re “Math, Taught Like Football,” by John Urschel (Sunday Review, May 12):

Mr. Urschel has recognized a fundamental problem in mathematics education: Children are taught to endure math class, not enjoy it. While most children like brain teasers, puzzles and games, the mathematics they encounter in school often consists of repetitive exercises.

I was fortunate that my father shared engaging puzzles and problems with me and provided opportunities to explore and make discoveries.

Let’s offer students similarly thought-provoking mathematics. Then they are more likely to feel challenged and inspired.

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Nancy Blachman is the Founder of JRMF. Her love of mathematics and puzzles stems from her high school days taking George Polya’s short course in mathematical logic and participating in the Saint Mary’s Math Contest in Moraga, California. These experiences taught her that it was more fun to learn by discovery than to be told how to solve problems or just apply formulae. Nancy earned a B.Sc. in applied mathematics, an M.S. in computer science, and an M.S. in operations research from the University of Birmingham (UK), Stanford, and UC Berkeley, respectively. She taught a course in problem solving with Mathematica at Stanford from 1990 to 1997. She is the former Chair of the Board of Gathering 4 Gardner and she is currently Chair of the UCB IEOR Advisory Board.

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