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Value Of Mathematics Quotes (60 quotes)

A general course in mathematics should be required of all officers for its practical value, but no less for its educational value in training the mind to logical forms of thought, in developing the sense of absolute truthfulness, together with a confidence in the accomplishment of definite results by definite means.
In 'Mathematics at West Point and Annapolis', United States Bureau of Education, Bulletin 1912, No. 2, 11.
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Another great and special excellence of mathematics is that it demands earnest voluntary exertion. It is simply impossible for a person to become a good mathematician by the happy accident of having been sent to a good school; this may give him a preparation and a start, but by his own individual efforts alone can he reach an eminent position.
In Conflict of Studies (1873), 2.
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As an exercise of the reasoning faculty, pure mathematics is an admirable exercise, because it consists of reasoning alone, and does not encumber the student with an exercise of judgment: and it is well to begin with learning one thing at a time, and to defer a combination of mental exercises to a later period.
In Annotations to Bacon’s Essays (1873), Essay 1, 493.
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Besides accustoming the student to demand, complete proof, and to know when he has not obtained it, mathematical studies are of immense benefit to his education by habituating him to precision. It is one of the peculiar excellencies of mathematical discipline, that the mathematician is never satisfied with à peu près. He requires the exact truth. Hardly any of the non-mathematical sciences, except chemistry, has this advantage. One of the commonest modes of loose thought, and sources of error both in opinion and in practice, is to overlook the importance of quantities. Mathematicians and chemists are taught by the whole course of their studies, that the most fundamental difference of quality depends on some very slight difference in proportional quantity; and that from the qualities of the influencing elements, without careful attention to their quantities, false expectation would constantly be formed as to the very nature and essential character of the result produced.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 611. [The French phrase, à peu près means “approximately”. —Webmaster]
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Every discipline must be honored for reason other than its utility, otherwise it yields no enthusiasm for industry.
For both reasons, I consider mathematics the chief subject for the common school. No more highly honored exercise for the mind can be found; the buoyancy [Spannkraft] which it produces is even greater than that produced by the ancient languages, while its utility is unquestioned.
In 'Mathematischer Lehrplan für Realschulen' Werke [Kehrbach] (1890), Bd. 5, 167. (Mathematics Curriculum for Secondary Schools). As quoted, cited and translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 61.
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Exercise in the most rigorous thinking that is possible will of its own accord strengthen the sense of truth and right, for each advance in the ability to distinguish between correct and false thoughts, each habit making for rigour in thought development will increase in the sound pupil the ability and the wish to ascertain what is right in life and to defend it.
In Anleitung zum mathematischen Unterricht in den höheren Schulen (1906), 28.
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For many parts of Nature can neither be invented with sufficient subtlety, nor demonstrated with sufficient perspicuity, nor accommodated to use with sufficient dexterity, without the aid and intervention of Mathematic: of which sort are Perspective, Music, Astronomy, cosmography, Architecture, Machinery, and some others.
In De Augmentis, Bk. 3; The Advancement of Learning (1605), Book 3. As translated in Francis Bacon, ‎James Spedding and ‎Robert Leslie Ellis, 'Of the great Appendix of Natural Philosophy, both Speculative and Operative, namely Mathematic; and that it ought rather to be placed among Appendices than among Substantive Sciences. Division of Mathematic into Pure and Mixed', The Works of Francis Bacon (1858), Vol. 4, Chap. 6, 371.
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He who gives a portion of his time and talent to the investigation of mathematical truth will come to all other questions with a decided advantage over his opponents. He will be in argument what the ancient Romans were in the field: to them the day of battle was a day of comparative recreation, because they were ever accustomed to exercise with arms much heavier than they fought; and reviews differed from a real battle in two respects: they encountered more fatigue, but the victory was bloodless.
Reflection 352, in Lacon: or Many things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think (1820), 159.
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He who would know what geometry is, must venture boldly into its depths and learn to think and feel as a geometer. I believe that it is impossible to do this, and to study geometry as it admits of being studied and am conscious it can be taught, without finding the reason invigorated, the invention quickened, the sentiment of the orderly and beautiful awakened and enhanced, and reverence for truth, the foundation of all integrity of character, converted into a fixed principle of the mental and moral constitution, according to the old and expressive adage “abeunt studia in mores”.
In 'A probationary Lecture on Geometry, in Collected Mathematical Papers (1908), Vol. 2, 9. [The Latin phrase, “abeunt studia in mores” translates as “studies pass on into character”. —Webmaster]
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I confess, that after I began … to discern how useful mathematicks may be made to physicks, I have often wished that I had employed about the speculative part of geometry, and the cultivation of the specious Algebra I had been taught very young, a good part of that time and industry, that I had spent about surveying and fortification (of which I remember I once wrote an entire treatise) and other parts of practick mathematicks.
In 'The Usefulness of Mathematiks to Natural Philosophy', Works (1772), Vol. 3, 426.
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I do not intend to go deeply into the question how far mathematical studies, as the representatives of conscious logical reasoning, should take a more important place in school education. But it is, in reality, one of the questions of the day. In proportion as the range of science extends, its system and organization must be improved, and it must inevitably come about that individual students will find themselves compelled to go through a stricter course of training than grammar is in a position to supply. What strikes me in my own experience with students who pass from our classical schools to scientific and medical studies, is first, a certain laxity in the application of strictly universal laws. The grammatical rules, in which they have been exercised, are for the most part followed by long lists of exceptions; accordingly they are not in the habit of relying implicitly on the certainty of a legitimate deduction from a strictly universal law. Secondly, I find them for the most part too much inclined to trust to authority, even in cases where they might form an independent judgment. In fact, in philological studies, inasmuch as it is seldom possible to take in the whole of the premises at a glance, and inasmuch as the decision of disputed questions often depends on an aesthetic feeling for beauty of expression, or for the genius of the language, attainable only by long training, it must often happen that the student is referred to authorities even by the best teachers. Both faults are traceable to certain indolence and vagueness of thought, the sad effects of which are not confined to subsequent scientific studies. But certainly the best remedy for both is to be found in mathematics, where there is absolute certainty in the reasoning, and no authority is recognized but that of one’s own intelligence.
In 'On the Relation of Natural Science to Science in general', Popular Lectures on Scientific Subjects, translated by E. Atkinson (1900), 25-26.
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I do not maintain that the chief value of the study of arithmetic consists in the lessons of morality that arise from this study. I claim only that, to be impressed from day to day, that there is something that is right as an answer to the questions with which one is able to grapple, and that there is a wrong answer—that there are ways in which the right answer can be established as right, that these ways automatically reject error and slovenliness, and that the learner is able himself to manipulate these ways and to arrive at the establishment of the true as opposed to the untrue, this relentless hewing to the line and stopping at the line, must color distinctly the thought life of the pupil with more than a tinge of morality. … To be neighborly with truth, to feel one’s self somewhat facile in ways of recognizing and establishing what is right, what is correct, to find the wrong persistently and unfailingly rejected as of no value, to feel that one can apply these ways for himself, that one can think and work independently, have a real, a positive, and a purifying effect upon moral character. They are the quiet, steady undertones of the work that always appeal to the learner for the sanction of his best judgment, and these are the really significant matters in school work. It is not the noise and bluster, not even the dramatics or the polemics from the teacher’s desk, that abide longest and leave the deepest and stablest imprint upon character. It is these still, small voices that speak unmistakably for the right and against the wrong and the erroneous that really form human character. When the school subjects are arranged on the basis of the degree to which they contribute to the moral upbuilding of human character good arithmetic will be well up the list.
In Arithmetic in Public Education (1909), 18. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 69.
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I have before mentioned mathematics, wherein algebra gives new helps and views to the understanding. If I propose these it is not to make every man a thorough mathematician or deep algebraist; but yet I think the study of them is of infinite use even to grown men; first by experimentally convincing them, that to make anyone reason well, it is not enough to have parts wherewith he is satisfied, and that serve him well enough in his ordinary course. A man in those studies will see, that however good he may think his understanding, yet in many things, and those very visible, it may fail him. This would take off that presumption that most men have of themselves in this part; and they would not be so apt to think their minds wanted no helps to enlarge them, that there could be nothing added to the acuteness and penetration of their understanding.
In The Conduct of the Understanding, Sect. 7.
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I have mentioned mathematics as a way to settle in the mind a habit of reasoning closely and in train; not that I think it necessary that all men should be deep mathematicians, but that, having got the way of reasoning which that study necessarily brings the mind to, they might be able to transfer it to other parts of knowledge, as they shall have occasion. For in all sorts of reasoning, every single argument should be managed as a mathematical demonstration; the connection and dependence of ideas should be followed till the mind is brought to the source on which it bottoms, and observes the coherence all along; …
In The Conduct of the Understanding, Sect. 7.
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If one be bird-witted, that is easily distracted and unable to keep his attention as long as he should, mathematics provides a remedy; for in them if the mind be caught away but a moment, the demonstration has to be commenced anew.
In De Augmentis, Bk. 6; Advancement of Learning, Bk. 2.
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In destroying the predisposition to anger, science of all kind is useful; but the mathematics possess this property in the most eminent degree.
Quoted in Day, Collacon (no date).
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In mathematics, … and in natural philosophy since mathematics was applied to it, we see the noblest instance of the force of the human mind, and of the sublime heights to which it may rise by cultivation. An acquaintance with such sciences naturally leads us to think well of our faculties, and to indulge sanguine expectations concerning the improvement of other parts of knowledge. To this I may add, that, as mathematical and physical truths are perfectly uninteresting in their consequences, the understanding readily yields its assent to the evidence which is presented to it; and in this way may be expected to acquire the habit of trusting to its own conclusions, which will contribute to fortify it against the weaknesses of scepticism, in the more interesting inquiries after moral truth in which it may afterwards engage.
In Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1827), Vol. 3, Chap. 1, Sec. 3, 182.
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In pure mathematics we have a great structure of logically perfect deductions which constitutes an integral part of that great and enduring human heritage which is and should be largely independent of the perhaps temporary existence of any particular geographical location at any particular time. … The enduring value of mathematics, like that of the other sciences and arts, far transcends the daily flux of a changing world. In fact, the apparent stability of mathematics may well be one of the reasons for its attractiveness and for the respect accorded it.
In Fundamentals of Mathematics (1941), 463.
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In the mathematics I can report no deficience, except that it be that men do not sufficiently understand the excellent use of the pure mathematics, in that they do remedy and cure many defects in the wit and faculties intellectual. For if the wit be too dull, they sharpen it; if too wandering, they fix it; if too inherent in the sense, they abstract it. So that as tennis is a game of no use in itself, but of great use in respect it maketh a quick eye and a body ready to put itself into all postures; so in the mathematics, that use which is collateral and intervenient is no less worthy than that which is principal and intended.
As translated in John Fauvel and Jeremy Gray (eds.) A History of Mathematics: A Reader (1987), 290-291. From De Augmentis, Book 3, The Advancement of Learning (1605), Book 2. Reprinted in The Two Books of Francis Bacon: Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, Divine and Human (2009), 97.
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It hath been an old remark, that Geometry is an excellent Logic. And it must be owned that when the definitions are clear; when the postulata cannot be refused, nor the axioms denied; when from the distinct contemplation and comparison of figures, their properties are derived, by a perpetual well-connected chain of consequences, the objects being still kept in view, and the attention ever fixed upon them; there is acquired a habit of reasoning, close and exact and methodical; which habit strengthens and sharpens the mind, and being transferred to other subjects is of general use in the inquiry after truth.
In 'The Analyst', in The Works of George Berkeley (1898), Vol. 3, 10.
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It is admitted by all that a finished or even a competent reasoner is not the work of nature alone; the experience of every day makes it evident that education develops faculties which would otherwise never have manifested their existence. It is, therefore, as necessary to learn to reason before we can expect to be able to reason, as it is to learn to swim or fence, in order to attain either of those arts. Now, something must be reasoned upon, it matters not much what it is, provided it can be reasoned upon with certainty. The properties of mind or matter, or the study of languages, mathematics, or natural history, may be chosen for this purpose. Now of all these, it is desirable to choose the one which admits of the reasoning being verified, that is, in which we can find out by other means, such as measurement and ocular demonstration of all sorts, whether the results are true or not. When the guiding property of the loadstone was first ascertained, and it was necessary to learn how to use this new discovery, and to find out how far it might be relied on, it would have been thought advisable to make many passages between ports that were well known before attempting a voyage of discovery. So it is with our reasoning faculties: it is desirable that their powers should be exerted upon objects of such a nature, that we can tell by other means whether the results which we obtain are true or false, and this before it is safe to trust entirely to reason. Now the mathematics are peculiarly well adapted for this purpose, on the following grounds:
1. Every term is distinctly explained, and has but one meaning, and it is rarely that two words are employed to mean the same thing.
2. The first principles are self-evident, and, though derived from observation, do not require more of it than has been made by children in general.
3. The demonstration is strictly logical, taking nothing for granted except self-evident first principles, resting nothing upon probability, and entirely independent of authority and opinion.
4. When the conclusion is obtained by reasoning, its truth or falsehood can be ascertained, in geometry by actual measurement, in algebra by common arithmetical calculation. This gives confidence, and is absolutely necessary, if, as was said before, reason is not to be the instructor, but the pupil.
5. There are no words whose meanings are so much alike that the ideas which they stand for may be confounded. Between the meaning of terms there is no distinction, except a total distinction, and all adjectives and adverbs expressing difference of degrees are avoided.
In On the Study and Difficulties of Mathematics (1898), chap. 1.
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It is better to teach the child arithmetic and Latin grammar than rhetoric and moral philosophy, because they require exactitude of performance it is made certain that the lesson is mastered, and that power of performance is worth more than knowledge.
In Lecture on 'Education'. Collected in J.E. Cabot (ed.), The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883), 145.
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It is from this absolute indifference and tranquility of the mind, that mathematical speculations derive some of their most considerable advantages; because there is nothing to interest the imagination; because the judgment sits free and unbiased to examine the point. All proportions, every arrangement of quantity, is alike to the understanding, because the same truths result to it from all; from greater from lesser, from equality and inequality.
In On the Sublime and Beautiful, Part 3, sect. 2.
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It seems to me that the older subjects, classics and mathematics, are strongly to be recommended on the ground of the accuracy with which we can compare the relative performance of the students. In fact the definiteness of these subjects is obvious, and is commonly admitted. There is however another advantage, which I think belongs in general to these subjects, that the examinations can be brought to bear on what is really most valuable in these subjects.
In Conflict of Studies and other Essays (1873), 6-7.
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Little can be understood of even the simplest phenomena of nature without some knowledge of mathematics, and the attempt to penetrate deeper into the mysteries of nature compels simultaneous development of the mathematical processes.
In Teaching of Mathematics in the Elementary and the Secondary School (1906), 16.
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Mathematical knowledge, therefore, appears to us of value not only in so far as it serves as means to other ends, but for its own sake as well, and we behold, both in its systematic external and internal development, the most complete and purest logical mind-activity, the embodiment of the highest intellect-esthetics.
In 'Ueber Wert und angeblichen Unwert der Mathematik', Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, Bd. 13, 381.
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Mathematics because of its nature and structure is peculiarly fitted for high school instruction [Gymnasiallehrfach]. Especially the higher mathematics, even if presented only in its elements, combines within itself all those qualities which are demanded of a secondary subject.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 40. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 49.
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Mathematics gives the young man a clear idea of demonstration and habituates him to form long trains of thought and reasoning methodically connected and sustained by the final certainty of the result; and it has the further advantage, from a purely moral point of view, of inspiring an absolute and fanatical respect for truth. In addition to all this, mathematics, and chiefly algebra and infinitesimal calculus, excite to a high degree the conception of the signs and symbols—necessary instruments to extend the power and reach of the human mind by summarizing an aggregate of relations in a condensed form and in a kind of mechanical way. These auxiliaries are of special value in mathematics because they are there adequate to their definitions, a characteristic which they do not possess to the same degree in the physical and mathematical [natural?] sciences.
There are, in fact, a mass of mental and moral faculties that can be put in full play only by instruction in mathematics; and they would be made still more available if the teaching was directed so as to leave free play to the personal work of the student.
In 'Science as an Instrument of Education', Popular Science Monthly (1897), 253.
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Mathematics in its pure form, as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and the applications of the analytic method, as well as mathematics applied to matter and force, or statics and dynamics, furnishes the peculiar study that gives to us, whether as children or as men, the command of nature in this its quantitative aspect; mathematics furnishes the instrument, the tool of thought, which we wield in this realm.
In Psychologic Foundations of Education (1898), 325.
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Mathematics is a type of thought which seems ingrained in the human mind, which manifests itself to some extent with even the primitive races, and which is developed to a high degree with the growth of civilization. … A type of thought, a body of results, so essentially characteristic of the human mind, so little influenced by environment, so uniformly present in every civilization, is one of which no well-informed mind today can be ignorant.
In Teaching of Mathematics in the Elementary and the Secondary School (1906), 14.
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Mathematics is the study which forms the foundation of the course [at West Point Military Academy]. This is necessary, both to impart to the mind that combined strength and versatility, the peculiar vigor and rapidity of comparison necessary for military action, and to pave the way for progress in the higher military sciences.
In Congressional Committee on Military Affairs, 1834, United States Bureau of Education, Bulletin 1912, No. 2, 10.
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Mathematics must subdue the flights of our reason; they are the staff of the blind; no one can take a step without them; and to them and experience is due all that is certain in physics.
In Oeuvres Completes (1880), t. 35, 219.
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Mathematics renders its best service through the immediate furthering of rigorous thought and the spirit of invention.
In 'Mathematischer Lehrplan für Realschulen' Werke [Kehrbach] (1890), Bd. 5, 170. (Mathematics Curriculum for Secondary Schools). As quoted, cited and translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 51.
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Mathematics … above all other subjects, makes the student lust after knowledge, fills him, as it were, with a longing to fathom the cause of things and to employ his own powers independently; it collects his mental forces and concentrates them on a single point and thus awakens the spirit of individual inquiry, self-confidence and the joy of doing; it fascinates because of the view-points which it offers and creates certainty and assurance, owing to the universal validity of its methods. Thus, both what he receives and what he himself contributes toward the proper conception and solution of a problem, combine to mature the student and to make him skillful, to lead him away from the surface of things and to exercise him in the perception of their essence. A student thus prepared thirsts after knowledge and is ready for the university and its sciences. Thus it appears, that higher mathematics is the best guide to philosophy and to the philosophic conception of the world (considered as a self-contained whole) and of one’s own being.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 40. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 49.
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Mathematics … engages, it fructifies, it quickens, compels attention, is as circumspect as inventive, induces courage and self-confidence as well as modesty and submission to truth. It yields the essence and kernel of all things, is brief in form and overflows with its wealth of content. It discloses the depth and breadth of the law and spiritual element behind the surface of phenomena; it impels from point to point and carries within itself the incentive toward progress; it stimulates the artistic perception, good taste in judgment and execution, as well as the scientific comprehension of things.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 40. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 49.
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Mathematics, among all school subjects, is especially adapted to further clearness, definite brevity and precision in expression, although it offers no exercise in flights of rhetoric. This is due in the first place to the logical rigour with which it develops thought, avoiding every departure from the shortest, most direct way, never allowing empty phrases to enter. Other subjects excel in the development of expression in other respects: translation from foreign languages into the mother tongue gives exercise in finding the proper word for the given foreign word and gives knowledge of laws of syntax, the study of poetry and prose furnish fit patterns for connected presentation and elegant form of expression, composition is to exercise the pupil in a like presentation of his own or borrowed thoughtsand their development, the natural sciences teach description of natural objects, apparatus and processes, as well as the statement of laws on the grounds of immediate sense-perception. But all these aids for exercise in the use of the mother tongue, each in its way valuable and indispensable, do not guarantee, in the same manner as mathematical training, the exclusion of words whose concepts, if not entirely wanting, are not sufficiently clear. They do not furnish in the same measure that which the mathematician demands particularly as regards precision of expression.
In Anleitung zum mathematischen Unterricht in höheren Schulen (1906), 17.
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Mathematics, while giving no quick remuneration, like the art of stenography or the craft of bricklaying, does furnish the power for deliberate thought and accurate statement, and to speak the truth is one of the most social qualities a person can possess. Gossip, flattery, slander, deceit, all spring from a slovenly mind that has not been trained in the power of truthful statement, which is one of the highest utilities.
In Social Phases of Education in the School and the Home (1900), 30.
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No school subject so readily furnishes tasks whose purpose can be made so clear, so immediate and so appealing to the sober second-thought of the immature learner as the right sort of elementary school mathematics.
In Arithmetic in Public Education (1909), 8. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 50.
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Nor do I know any study which can compete with mathematics in general in furnishing matter for severe and continued thought. Metaphysical problems may be even more difficult; but then they are far less definite, and, as they rarely lead to any precise conclusion, we miss the power of checking our own operations, and of discovering whether we are thinking and reasoning or merely fancying and dreaming.
In Conflict of Studies (1873), 13.
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One rarely hears of the mathematical recitation as a preparation for public speaking. Yet mathematics shares with these studies [foreign languages, drawing and natural science] their advantages, and has another in a higher degree than either of them.
Most readers will agree that a prime requisite for healthful experience in public speaking is that the attention of the speaker and hearers alike be drawn wholly away from the speaker and concentrated upon the thought. In perhaps no other classroom is this so easy as in the mathematical, where the close reasoning, the rigorous demonstration, the tracing of necessary conclusions from given hypotheses, commands and secures the entire mental power of the student who is explaining, and of his classmates. In what other circumstances do students feel so instinctively that manner counts for so little and mind for so much? In what other circumstances, therefore, is a simple, unaffected, easy, graceful manner so naturally and so healthfully cultivated? Mannerisms that are mere affectation or the result of bad literary habit recede to the background and finally disappear, while those peculiarities that are the expression of personality and are inseparable from its activity continually develop, where the student frequently presents, to an audience of his intellectual peers, a connected train of reasoning. …
One would almost wish that our institutions of the science and art of public speaking would put over their doors the motto that Plato had over the entrance to his school of philosophy: “Let no one who is unacquainted with geometry enter here.”
In A Scrap-book of Elementary Mathematics: Notes, Recreations, Essays (1908), 210-211.
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One striking peculiarity of mathematics is its unlimited power of evolving examples and problems. A student may read a book of Euclid, or a few chapters of Algebra, and within that limited range of knowledge it is possible to set him exercises as real and as interesting as the propositions themselves which he has studied; deductions which might have pleased the Greek geometers, and algebraic propositions which Pascal and Fermat would not have disdained to investigate.
In 'Private Study of Mathematics', Conflict of Studies and other Essays (1873), 82.
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Out of the interaction of form and content in mathematics grows an acquaintance with methods which enable the student to produce independently within certain though moderate limits, and to extend his knowledge through his own reflection. The deepening of the consciousness of the intellectual powers connected with this kind of activity, and the gradual awakening of the feeling of intellectual self-reliance may well be considered as the most beautiful and highest result of mathematical training.
In 'Ueber Wert und angeblichen Unwert der Mathematik', Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung (1904), 374.
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Probably among all the pursuits of the University, mathematics pre-eminently demand self-denial, patience, and perseverance from youth, precisely at that period when they have liberty to act for themselves, and when on account of obvious temptations, habits of restraint and application are peculiarly valuable.
In The Conflict of Studies and other Essays (1873), 12.
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Secondly, the study of mathematics would show them the necessity there is in reasoning, to separate all the distinct ideas, and to see the habitudes that all those concerned in the present inquiry have to one another, and to lay by those which relate not to the proposition in hand, and wholly to leave them out of the reckoning. This is that which, in other respects besides quantity is absolutely requisite to just reasoning, though in them it is not so easily observed and so carefully practised. In those parts of knowledge where it is thought demonstration has nothing to do, men reason as it were in a lump; and if upon a summary and confused view, or upon a partial consideration, they can raise the appearance of a probability, they usually rest content; especially if it be in a dispute where every little straw is laid hold on, and everything that can but be drawn in any way to give color to the argument is advanced with ostentation. But that mind is not in a posture to find truth that does not distinctly take all the parts asunder, and, omitting what is not at all to the point, draws a conclusion from the result of all the particulars which in any way influence it.
In Conduct of the Understanding, Sect. 7.
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Suppose then I want to give myself a little training in the art of reasoning; suppose I want to get out of the region of conjecture and probability, free myself from the difficult task of weighing evidence, and putting instances together to arrive at general propositions, and simply desire to know how to deal with my general propositions when I get them, and how to deduce right inferences from them; it is clear that I shall obtain this sort of discipline best in those departments of thought in which the first principles are unquestionably true. For in all our thinking, if we come to erroneous conclusions, we come to them either by accepting false premises to start with—in which case our reasoning, however good, will not save us from error; or by reasoning badly, in which case the data we start from may be perfectly sound, and yet our conclusions may be false. But in the mathematical or pure sciences,—geometry, arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, the calculus of variations or of curves,— we know at least that there is not, and cannot be, error in our first principles, and we may therefore fasten our whole attention upon the processes. As mere exercises in logic, therefore, these sciences, based as they all are on primary truths relating to space and number, have always been supposed to furnish the most exact discipline. When Plato wrote over the portal of his school. “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here,” he did not mean that questions relating to lines and surfaces would be discussed by his disciples. On the contrary, the topics to which he directed their attention were some of the deepest problems,— social, political, moral,—on which the mind could exercise itself. Plato and his followers tried to think out together conclusions respecting the being, the duty, and the destiny of man, and the relation in which he stood to the gods and to the unseen world. What had geometry to do with these things? Simply this: That a man whose mind has not undergone a rigorous training in systematic thinking, and in the art of drawing legitimate inferences from premises, was unfitted to enter on the discussion of these high topics; and that the sort of logical discipline which he needed was most likely to be obtained from geometry—the only mathematical science which in Plato’s time had been formulated and reduced to a system. And we in this country [England] have long acted on the same principle. Our future lawyers, clergy, and statesmen are expected at the University to learn a good deal about curves, and angles, and numbers and proportions; not because these subjects have the smallest relation to the needs of their lives, but because in the very act of learning them they are likely to acquire that habit of steadfast and accurate thinking, which is indispensable to success in all the pursuits of life.
In Lectures on Teaching (1906), 891-92.
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The faculty of resolution is possibly much invigorated by mathematical study, and especially by that highest branch of it which, unjustly, merely on account of its retrograde operations, has been called, as if par excellence, analysis.
In The Murders in Rue Morgue.
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The instruction of children should aim gradually to combine knowing and doing [Wissen und Konnen]. Among all sciences mathematics seems to be the only one of a kind to satisfy this aim most completely.
In Werke, Bd. 9 (1888), 409.
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The metaphysical philosopher from his point of view recognizes mathematics as an instrument of education, which strengthens the power of attention, develops the sense of order and the faculty of construction, and enables the mind to grasp under the simple formulae the quantitative differences of physical phenomena.
In Dialogues of Plato (1897), Vol. 2, 78.
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The motive for the study of mathematics is insight into the nature of the universe. Stars and strata, heat and electricity, the laws and processes of becoming and being, incorporate mathematical truths. If language imitates the voice of the Creator, revealing His heart, mathematics discloses His intellect, repeating the story of how things came into being. And Value of Mathematics, appealing as it does to our energy and to our honor, to our desire to know the truth and thereby to live as of right in the household of God, is that it establishes us in larger and larger certainties. As literature develops emotion, understanding, and sympathy, so mathematics develops observation, imagination, and reason.
In A Theory of Motives, Ideals and Values in Education (1907), 406.
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The peculiar taste both in pure and in mixed nature of those relations about which it is conversant, from its simple and definite phraseology, and from the severe logic so admirably displayed in the concatenation of its innumerable theorems, are indeed immense, and well entitled to separate and ample illustration.
In Philosophy of the Human Mind (1816), Vol. 2, Chap. 2, Sec. 3, 157.
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The training which mathematics gives in working with symbols is an excellent preparation for other sciences; … the world’s work requires constant mastery of symbols.
In Teaching of Mathematics in the Elementary and the Secondary School (1906), 42.
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The value of mathematical instruction as a preparation for those more difficult investigations, consists in the applicability not of its doctrines but of its methods. Mathematics will ever remain the past perfect type of the deductive method in general; and the applications of mathematics to the simpler branches of physics furnish the only school in which philosophers can effectually learn the most difficult and important of their art, the employment of the laws of simpler phenomena for explaining and predicting those of the more complex. These grounds are quite sufficient for deeming mathematical training an indispensable basis of real scientific education, and regarding with Plato, one who is … as wanting in one of the most essential qualifications for the successful cultivation of the higher branches of philosophy
In System of Logic, Bk. 3, chap. 24, sect. 9.
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There is no prophet which preaches the superpersonal God more plainly than mathematics.
In 'Reflections on Magic Squares', Monist (1906), 147.
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These Disciplines [mathematics] serve to inure and corroborate the Mind to a constant Diligence in Study; to undergo the Trouble of an attentive Meditation, and cheerfully contend with such Difficulties as lie in the Way. They wholly deliver us from a credulous Simplicity, most strongly fortify us against the Vanity of Scepticism, effectually restrain from a rash Presumption, most easily incline us to a due Assent, perfectly subject us to the Government of right Reason, and inspire us with Resolution to wrestle against the unjust Tyranny of false Prejudices. If the Fancy be unstable and fluctuating, it is to be poized by this Ballast, and steadied by this Anchor, if the Wit be blunt it is sharpened upon this Whetstone; if luxuriant it is pared by this Knife; if headstrong it is restrained by this Bridle; and if dull it is rouzed by this Spur. The Steps are guided by no Lamp more clearly through the dark Mazes of Nature, by no Thread more surely through the intricate Labyrinths of Philosophy, nor lastly is the Bottom of Truth sounded more happily by any other Line. I will not mention how plentiful a Stock of Knowledge the Mind is furnished from these, with what wholesome Food it is nourished, and what sincere Pleasure it enjoys. But if I speak farther, I shall neither be the only Person, nor the first, who affirms it; that while the Mind is abstracted and elevated from sensible Matter, distinctly views pure Forms, conceives the Beauty of Ideas, and investigates the Harmony of Proportions; the Manners themselves are sensibly corrected and improved, the Affections composed and rectified, the Fancy calmed and settled, and the Understanding raised and excited to more divine Contemplations. All which I might defend by Authority, and confirm by the Suffrages of the greatest Philosophers.
Prefatory Oration in Mathematical Lectures (1734), xxxi.
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Thinking is merely the comparing of ideas, discerning relations of likeness and of difference between ideas, and drawing inferences. It is seizing general truths on the basis of clearly apprehended particulars. It is but generalizing and particularizing. Who will deny that a child can deal profitably with sequences of ideas like: How many marbles are 2 marbles and 3 marbles? 2 pencils and 3 pencils? 2 balls and 3 balls? 2 children and 3 children? 2 inches and 3 inches? 2 feet and 3 feet? 2 and 3? Who has not seen the countenance of some little learner light up at the end of such a series of questions with the exclamation, “Why it’s always that way. Isn’t it?” This is the glow of pleasure that the generalizing step always affords him who takes the step himself. This is the genuine life-giving joy which comes from feeling that one can successfully take this step. The reality of such a discovery is as great, and the lasting effect upon the mind of him that makes it is as sure as was that by which the great Newton hit upon the generalization of the law of gravitation. It is through these thrills of discovery that love to learn and intellectual pleasure are begotten and fostered. Good arithmetic teaching abounds in such opportunities.
In Arithmetic in Public Education (1909), 13. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 68.
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This science, Geometry, is one of indispensable use and constant reference, for every student of the laws of nature; for the relations of space and number are the alphabet in which those laws are written. But besides the interest and importance of this kind which geometry possesses, it has a great and peculiar value for all who wish to understand the foundations of human knowledge, and the methods by which it is acquired. For the student of geometry acquires, with a degree of insight and clearness which the unmathematical reader can but feebly imagine, a conviction that there are necessary truths, many of them of a very complex and striking character; and that a few of the most simple and self-evident truths which it is possible for the mind of man to apprehend, may, by systematic deduction, lead to the most remote and unexpected results.
In The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences Part 1, Bk. 2, chap. 4, sect. 8 (1868).
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Those that can readily master the difficulties of Mathematics find a considerable charm in the study, sometimes amounting to fascination. This is far from universal; but the subject contains elements of strong interest of a kind that constitutes the pleasures of knowledge. The marvellous devices for solving problems elate the mind with the feeling of intellectual power; and the innumerable constructions of the science leave us lost in wonder.
In Education as a Science (1879), 153.
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We receive it as a fact, that some minds are so constituted as absolutely to require for their nurture the severe logic of the abstract sciences; that rigorous sequence of ideas which leads from the premises to the conclusion, by a path, arduous and narrow, it may be, and which the youthful reason may find it hard to mount, but where it cannot stray; and on which, if it move at all, it must move onward and upward… . Even for intellects of a different character, whose natural aptitude is for moral evidence and those relations of ideas which are perceived and appreciated by taste, the study of the exact sciences may be recommended as the best protection against the errors into which they are most likely to fall. Although the study of language is in many respects no mean exercise in logic, yet it must be admitted that an eminently practical mind is hardly to be formed without mathematical training.
In Orations and Speeches (1870), Vol. 8, 510.
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What renders a problem definite, and what leaves it indefinite, may best be understood from mathematics. The very important idea of solving a problem within limits of error is an element of rational culture, coming from the same source. The art of totalizing fluctuations by curves is capable of being carried, in conception, far beyond the mathematical domain, where it is first learnt. The distinction between laws and co-efficients applies in every department of causation. The theory of Probable Evidence is the mathematical contribution to Logic, and is of paramount importance.
In Education as a Science (1879), 151-152.
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Would you have a man reason well, you must use him to it betimes; exercise his mind in observing the connection between ideas, and following them in train. Nothing does this better than mathematics, which therefore, I think should be taught to all who have the time and opportunity, not so much to make them mathematicians, as to make them reasonable creatures; for though we all call ourselves so, because we are born to it if we please, yet we may truly say that nature gives us but the seeds of it, and we are carried no farther than industry and application have carried us.
In Conduct of the Understanding, Sect. 6.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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