of math and men

194. People Walking Together Under and Umbrella 10-28-2008

[penned while frustratedly making my way through bowling alone]

most likely, the less critical of a thinker you are, the better you did/do in school math. there is just too much there to question if you think (are allowed to think) critically.

so those who (most) blindly played the game.. ended up getting good grades.. and all that follows that path of diplomacy-ness (living for/by a folded paper), are now deciding things for us.

that means we have many (school math) experts flashing charts/graphs and such today.. in front of many people who feel small enough to just accept them. (smallness from the accumulated shame of not being normal – ie: not knowing their school maths growing up. even though now it’s socially accepted to not know school math, most people are still oppressed/bullied/coerced by those that claim to know it.) unfortunately, that leaves both – the chart pusher and the chart receiver blinded and not questioning that the very essence of life has nothing to do with a chart/stat/data//ballot/map.

[one major reason it has little to do with reality/possibility is that too much of research has been done with/on people who have been exposed/overexposed to a society baked in compulsion. our sample groups are flawed/biased. of course that’s assuming anything human can be proven in the first place.]

isn’t life too alive/moving/perpetually changing.. to be predictable/provable/defined?

yet – because of our blindness (from pluralistic ignorance) and/or our allegiance (from shame) and/or how impressive/smart school math sounds… we let academics/media carry on with all the flapping. and then we all let that flapping decide our days. [if ….there is any time left – after all the flapping. and after all the writing policy about all the flapping. and then documenting all the flapping. and then arguing about the policy/documents about the flapping. no?]

so that’s bad enough. we really should stop all that.

but there’s more.

if this is an accurate-ish analysis.. that means many critical thinking individuals were written off early on – perhaps they became rejected/oppressed/homeless/violent.. led a life of un-success. ie: they weren’t properly rewarded/promoted/credentialed. they didn’t fit. so we perpetuated their un-fittingness. all because they wouldn’t bow/bend toward mindlessness. how crazy are we..?

perhaps… the seemingly rich really are the poor, and the seemingly poor are indeed the rich.

we might think we have things all figured out, but who will/should be helping who. who sees more clearly…?

perhaps if we lean in and listen.. we can all help each other…

this matters.. huge…because much like the irrelevance of the math classroom.. the world is carrying on what was modeled there. the world is obsessing over and believing in charts/graphs/comparisons/data.. that prove very little to nothing.

while the world is at war… while people are dying.. because of our man made diseases/violences/blindnesses, we spend our days piecing together our lines of best fit with prettier, more expensive/costly band-aids.


title inspired by – of mice and men:

wikipedia small

Of Mice and Men is a novella written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. Published in 1937, it tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in California, USA.

Based on Steinbeck’s own experiences as a bindlestiff in the 1920s (before the arrival of the Okies he would vividly describe inThe Grapes of Wrath), the title is taken from Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse”, which read: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.)

Required reading in many schools, Of Mice and Men has been a frequent target of censors for vulgarity and what some consider offensive and racist language; consequently, it appears on the American Library Association’s list of the Most Challenged Books of 21st Century.


In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme.

Try to understand each other.

— John Steinbeck in his 1938 journal entry

Cultural Influence

The character of Lennie Small is used as the standard for legal mental retardation for executing a prisoner in Texas. If a person appears smarter than Lennie Small in an interview then he may be executed. If he does not then he cannot understand his crime(s).

John Steinbeck’s son, Thomas Steinbeck, who is personally against the death penalty, has protested that this legal practice is a misappropriation and insult of his father’s work.

cathy davidson quote

theme from the book:

The most visible kind of strength—that’s used to oppress others—is itself born of weakness.


everything as experiment

rapid prototyping .. to slow/human


seems funny that school math – as a basic/essential – usually breaks down to a person saying… they have to be able to balance their check book.

how crazy are we…

what if our money system is our most unhealthy creation… making up money

and we’re keeping it alive.. because we’re keeping people too busy learning to balance their check book.. to question it.


oh my math

measuring things – any form of m\a\p

mona lisa compare law

of math and men

making up money


algos of oppression


automating ineq

weapons of math



resonating maths ness..

fractal thinking


x-d glasses





via Maria: 2014

the life of the mind – thinking vs knowing.. diff between truth and meaning..



when philosophy had become the handmaiden of theology, thinking became meditation, and meditation again ended in contemplation, a kind of blessed state of the soul where the mind was no longer stretching out to know the truth but, in anticipation of a future state, received it temporarily in intuition… With the rise of the modern age, thinking became chiefly the handmaiden of science, of organized knowledge; and even though thinking then grew extremely active, following modernity’s crucial conviction that I can know only what I myself make, it was Mathematics, the non-empirical science par excellence, *wherein the mind appears to play only with itself, that turned out to be the Science of sciences, delivering the key to those laws of nature and the universe that are concealed by appearances.

* sans embodiment ness..

of math and men

constant line law


Doug Peterson (@dougpete) tweeted at 4:46 AM – 25 Aug 2017 :

Forget trigonometry, cos Babylonians did it better 3700 years ago – by counting in base 60! https://t.co/gVYxejrsHG via @flipboard (http://twitter.com/dougpete/status/901032942146699264?s=17)

when learning bases.. i don’t remember any connection.. to base 60 ness..


Doug Peterson (@dougpete) tweeted at 4:33 AM – 17 Sep 2017 :

Mathematicians Measure Infinities, and Find They’re Equal https://t.co/4o0LZHb2tL via @flipboard (http://twitter.com/dougpete/status/909364653641293829?s=17)

When Malliaris and Shelah found a way to solve it, it was only because they were looking for something else.

Keisler describes complexity as the range of things that can happen in a theory—and theories where more things can happen are more complex than theories where fewer things can happen.


Seymour Papert – of math and men – aka: school/boxed math ..oh my math

i like to say.. there’s a big distinction between something i love.. called mathematics and something called math.. which is what we teach in schools.. that’s not a mathematics curriculum.. it’s a math curriculum

why curriculum..?

mathematics is an active intellectual activity.. and it means working at things where you’re using the mathematical ideas that you’re struggling with for a larger purpose.. and the idea that the larger purpose could be discovering something that the teacher has decided you’ve got to discover is not a larger purpose.. that’s just play acting.. and the kids are quite sensitive.. quite aware of that

i think at that age.. kids could be doing quite complex projects.. using computer technology or .. (we’re) doing a lot of stuff w non computer tech .. using mechanical things w leggo for ie and building devices w involving gearing and how to max the force or how steep a slope a vehicle can climb up

ie of probably not kids deeper problem.. (slope, gearing, et al)

there’s room in that for a lot of mathematical thinking.. which typically what you learn in middle school.. is not really what you need and even if it does teach you ..you..normally the kind of mathematical ideas you could use.. you don’t know how to use it

take multiplication for ie.. kids think of multiplication as something you do to numbers.. and you’re supposed to learn these mult tables.. and you do some rituals called.. multi digit mult.. but for me as a mathematician.. not dealing w multiplication at all.. you’re only manipulating the formalism.. and understanding multiplication is like understanding.. what is the kind of relationship between say.. time and distance and velocity.. why is that a multiplicative rather than an additive relationship

there’s nothing in the way that we talk about multiplication in elementary school.. for that matter in the kind of work that pre service teachers get.. that prepares them to even see that as a meaningful question.. it’s multiplication because that’s the formula.. but that’s not an answer.. mult has to do w a particular kind of relationship where there’s a certain kind of linearity and a certain kind of particular relationship of proportionality..

so.. i think they just don’t deal w the ideas.. and school generally is a little bit idea averse.. in mathematics it’s almost entirely idea averse.. you learn skills.. you learn how to do things.. even when you learn how to solve certain puzzle like problems.. you’re never dealing with the ideas

better yet.. since we have the means.. let’s deal with the curiosities.. via 2 convos.. as the day

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


conrad wolfram:

Conrad Wolfram (@conradwolfram) tweeted at 5:48 AM – 21 Jun 2018 :
“Has the math(s) brand become toxic”? My detailed blogpost at https://t.co/CzAEFx0UgZ (http://twitter.com/conradwolfram/status/1009764873738301441?s=17)


I’m using this gif in a guest lecture about numerical calculations.  My point is that there only two parts of science – experiment and theory (or model testing and model building). There are NOT three types of science (computational experiment is theory) https://t.co/ZMxOgVyuL6https://t.co/QC5YftSRPZ
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/rjallain/status/1039321343819481090

It is important to remember the bipedal nature of science. Create models. Compare models with real life. Maybe the model is a conceptual model, maybe it is a model based on vector calculus, maybe it is a calculation in python. They are all models. There is no third leg.


(@OwenJones84): Britain is one of the richest countries that has ever existed, and at least 1 in every 200 citizens are homeless. This is a damning indictment of our entire social order. theguardian.com/society/2018/n

(@davidgraeber): At least 1 in 200 British citizens are homeless. About the same proportion of the population, 1 in 200, are accountants. Kind of makes you think….

David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 7:32 AM – 22 Nov 2018 :
those are very high proportions of both. It would be very interesting to see if there is a direct correlation: societies with low rates of accountancy also have low rates of homelessness, etc (http://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1065614092772233217?s=17)


tweet from vinay about same 44 min read article

@leashless: Gupta #Longreads crew medium.com/humanizing-the… there’s fifteen years of wisdom crammed into this thing, and it’s a fundamental analysis about how to fix industrial capitalism using the #blockchain. Read, analyze, process, promulgate. We need new thinking on the global situation.

‘protection from misinfo regarding the things they buy’ not deep enough

‘new thinking on the global situation’: money (any form of measuring/accounting) our planned obsolescence.. ie: ubi as temp placebo..

@leashless: money as planned obsolescence? I don’t understand.

ie: ubi as a temporary placebo.. to free people up enough to not think about money/measuring.. so we can realize we don’t need it.. in fact.. that it (money/measuring) is poisoning us

@leashless: I’ve got nine billion people to feed, and finite land. I need to do math to make this work…

perhaps.. and perhaps that’s what keeps getting in the way.. i’m thinking that doing the math.. is what’s gotten us to where we are now

@leashless: Nobody doing the math properly got us here.

admire your work/drive/insight.. hope you’re right.. i just think this is one major mistake we keep making over and over.. thinking math.. (rather than getting the conditions right – 7/9 b free people – and then trusting that/us) could ever fix this.. could ever be proper/legit

of math and men et al

undisturbed ecosystem et al

‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows


rai on math optimization


bateson numbers law

sparks love-hate law

literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism.. we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things


Human beings are not numbers.

The complexity within and betweeen us will muddle models based on counted human beings.

Unless we believe ourselves to be numbers.

In which case the math is a horror story.

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/NoraBateson/status/1278597688859283457