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Maths should not be hard: the case for making academic knowledge more palatable

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This article argues that simplifying academic knowledge, and enhancing its aesthetic appeal, may be the most effective way of assisting its development and dissemination, and in the long term may be essential if humankind is to continue to progress. Eight principles for simplifying knowledge are suggested. This process may proceed hand in hand with conventional education. However, simplification can be viewed as a substitute for, or competitor of, education; there are certainly powerful orces resisting simplification within the educational community - simplifying knowledge makes it easier, which, perversely, may be seen as an undesirable lowering of standards. Examples are given to illustrate how ideas and methods can be simplified to assist with the problems of the expert, the layperson, and the student. Most of these examples are drawn from mathematics and statistics: these disciplines are chosen because they are the basis of a very wide range of applications, and because, for many people, they symbolise what is hard about academic knowledge. The argument of the article is, however, not restricted to these disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalHigher Education Review
Volume34
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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