In response to Bret Victor's Kill Math, I wrote him an email.

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Joe Puccio 
May 18, 2011, 2:01 PM
to bret

I just finished reading your article and I couldn't help but offer my assistance. 

Just yesterday, I was fervidly explaining the disparity between what actions students are rewarded for and what actions are actually conducive to authentic learning. The person to whom I was speaking shrugged it off with an apathetic: "Yeah, well, we can't really do anything about it, so." I've found that students are rewarded for vacuous diligence, rather than creativity, intrinsic motivation, and skepticism, and I'd like to change that. As a high school junior, I've found it necessary that this disparity does not go unnoticed. Last year, I dedicated an entire week to recording and evaluating the use of time in each of my classes. As I hypothesized, all of my classes dedicated the majority of their allotted time to rote learning, including my favorite subject: Math. 

More recently, I've been focused on asking "Why?" and "How?" when I'm presented with a theorem in Calculus or Physics, and I've been adamant that I do not accept any equation without a proof that I fully understand (I always attempt to formulate a proof on my own, first). I've been writing programs to entertain these questions and to prove or disprove my conjectures. So far, I've observed the periodicity of a circle bouncing in a rectangle (in search of chaotic behavior), related permutations and Pascal's triangle to normal distribution curves and exponential functions, analyzed compound interest and the value of e, and visually explained countless mathematical equations such as why the transformation for integration given kx^n is (k/n+1)x^n+1. Doing so has undoubtedly been the most satisfying work of my life and I'd like to provide others with such explanations to augment their understanding as they have certainly enhanced mine. 

A very relevant lecture:

By the way, "Waiting for Superman" disappointed me for the same reasons. 

Thank you, 


Bret Victor 
May 18, 2011, 3:38 PM
to me

Hi Joe,

You may be interested in reading John Taylor Gatto.  Maybe start with and move on to "Dumbing Us Down" and his other books.

I'm glad to hear that you have found such satisfaction in mathematical play, but be cautious about expecting other people's learning paths to follow your own.  Your path satisfies you precisely because you are following your own specific interests and figuring out things for yourself.  You may wish to explain your discoveries to others, but consider instead encouraging others to follow their own interests and make their own discoveries.

If you haven't read "Mindstorms" by Seymour Papert, I can't recommend it highly enough.  I think you might resonate with many of its concepts.