The Poetry Is in the Proof

The Poetry Is in the Proof 1

Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle

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Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle

Long ago, when I was young, naïve, and chair of a department of mathematics at a liberal-arts college, I recommended that a course in mathematical proofs be required of all students majoring in the liberal arts—including majors in the humanities and the arts. Hereafter, I will refer to those students as "poets."

The preference then, as now, was to teach poets a hodgepodge of "interesting" mathematical topics, or something "useful." Today's liberal-arts math course is an