For Bertrand Russell, mathematics possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture. He said he had tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway over the flux.
To those of us who share Russell’s views, it is dispiriting to be approached by someone at a party and be told enthusiastically, “I hated maths at school’’ or “I was rubbish at maths in school’’. No one has ever told me so quite so gushingly “I hated geography’’ or “I was rubbish at history’’.
Amid the furore over the Higher Maths exam (your report, 5 August), why has mathematics got this sorry reputation in our country? I believe the answer lies squarely in the teaching of the subject. Mathematics should be taught only by people who, like Russell, genuinely believe and feel that the subject possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty, and finds amazing applicability in its power by which number holds sway over the flux.
Muir Wood Grove