Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reuters: mathematics is just opinion

Reuters reported last week on a Japanese man who reached a new world record for computing the digits of Pi:
Shigeru Kondo, a systems engineer in his 50s at a food company in the central Japanese prefecture of Nagano, in August calculated pi -- the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter -- to five trillion digits, almost doubling the accuracy of the previous world record.


Calculating a more accurate pi, which is believed to go on forever, has been a challenge for scholars for thousands of years, ever since the parameter was used in ancient Egypt.
It's "believed" to go on forever? Who knew the media was so skeptical of mathematical proof?

This makes me think about how I teach mathematics. Just because I've proved something rigorously, does that mean students believe me? That is, do they now accept it as genuine fact? How much of a difference is there, fundamentally, between not understanding a proof and doubting a proof? Things to ponder...

HT: Gary Davis

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