It IS a shame how the fear of math causes promising students to reconsider a career in science. I know that math isn’t listed as a top fear, but public speaking is. I bet that some of the reasons that people fear public speaking (e.g., feeling that other perceive you incompetent) are similar to reasons why aspiring students quit science in fear of math.
The brilliant conservation and ant biologist E. O. Wilson wrote a bizarre piece for the Wall Street Journal recently. It is modified from an upcoming book of advice for young students. It has inspired an intense flurry of highly negative comments that have mostly focused on a tiny piece of his argument, so I think it might be worthwhile here to first summarize what he says.
1. Students drop out of science because they fear math, which is a shame.
2. Strong math skills are unnecessary to become a brilliant scientist.
3. E. O. Wilson himself has weak math skills.
4. Strong math is needed in few areas of science, like some physics.
5. The ability “to form concepts…by intuition” is far more important.
6. Dreams and fantasies “ramped up and disciplined,” are the basis of creative thinking.
7. Discoveries do not come from pure mathematics.
8. Ideas also need…
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