Math Digest

Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Making Mathematics Part of the Equation of Life," by Philip J. Davis. Chronicle of Higher Education, 13 April 2001.

In this provocative and lively piece, mathematician and author PhilipJ. Davis makes the case for the need to increase the understanding of howmathematical ideas affect society today.  As an example, he pointsto the recent Supreme Court decision about the census.  Mathematicsproposes a number of different ways to count the population, and one ofthem, the simple count, is known to cause certain kinds of errors in thedata.  "Yet the Supreme Court unananimously ruled that a simple countis what will determine congressional apportionments," Davis writes. "We have encouraged the spread of math in daily life by our enthusiasticand often uncritical acceptance of mathematical products.  Now isthe time for us to look at them critically and to humanize them."

--- Allyn Jackson