MORE ALGEBRA….Jeanne weighs in on the great algebra debate:
There are lots of skills and talents I lack, and at this point in my life if God were to offer me just one of the ones I don’t have, I think I’d take the ability to sing or play an instrument over the ability to do math. I’ve listened to great singers and ached for something other than a thin, off-key whisper to come out of my throat. Just ached for it.
In my entire life, I’ve never felt that way about algebra.
Well, no, I don’t suppose many people do. I suspect that even most mathophiles think of algebra as sort of the 1-ton pickup truck of mathematics ? handy for getting things done around the house, but hardly something to feel sentimental about.
On the other hand, you have to understand algebra in order to learn calculus, and calculus is achingly beautiful. Given the way my life has turned out, knowing calculus does me no practical good at all, but it’s one of the great inventions of mankind and certainly one of our most elegant and breathtaking. My life would be less rich if I didn’t know it.
But then again, my life would be less rich if I had to jettison nearly any of the knowledge I’ve accumulated so far ? and most of it, like algebra, isn’t really of very much practical use to me. If I could trade calculus for a working knowledge of French, I suppose I might take the deal. But I’d never be sure if I’d made the right decision.