
Learning a language is applying its rules (the syntax)
to create context. This is literacy, the communication of a
message. In science this requires the use of mathematics
by which we represent relations between objects. We have to
learn this unique language to get at the core of scientific
knowledge. Mathematics, or the quantitative description of relationships,
includes the manipulation of symbols, which are the basic elements
of language, be it the language of everyday life or the language
of science. To write (to manipulate symbols) is to explain
a statement within a given context which we perceive as important.
To calculate means to express a relation of values. But while
numbers express the magnitude of a relation, the meaning of
the relation is founded on an understanding of the exactness
and validity of the calculation. To put it simple; using a calculator
or computer results in impressive numbers, yet these numbers
can be completely meaningless when using the wrong 'program'
to do our calculation, adopting the wrong assumptions, or misunderstanding
the accuracy the numbers are supposed to convey.
Finally, practice
is the bread and butter of science. Practicing means to not just
read and understand the logic of factual knowledge ('it makes sense')
but to work with your hands, read with your senses, and think with
your brain. Practice means to perform an experiment, to develop
the logic of a proof, to deduce the origin of a mathematical formula.
Practice also means to read, read, and read some more and get the
full notion of scientific knowledge, information, and facts. With
all its fascination, logic, and inconsistencies.
All education
needs some measure of success. Thus, teaching and learning
are continuously applied in the real world, but more importantly,
tested as we go along and become
educated. There is an economic premium in education because it prepares
us for a professional life where we are part of manufacturing, inventing,
buying and selling. A modern society demands quite a bit form its
citizens in understanding and complying with its rules but also
enjoying a level of unprecedented convenience thanks to modern technology
in communication, health, work and leisure.
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Copyright © 20002011 Lukas
K. Buehler
