Some thoughts on Devlin and Boaler

traditional math

For those who have read and heard Keith Devlin, he is pretty close with Jo Boaler who you may also have heard about. Keith Devlin, you will recall, writes a column called Devlin’s Angle in MAA and also is known as “that math guy” at NPR.

He made a big name for himself some years ago when he claimed that multiplication  “Ain’t no repeated addition”.

Well, yes, in formal, higher level mathematics, there is a general definition of multiplication that must meet several conditions. Technically, it is a function which maps two objects (numbers, functions, even shapes) from a set, into one object, (e.g., f(2,4) = 8 ) and the function is commutative, associative, distributive, and has an identify function called “1” in which a*1 = a.

What he seems to miss is that this general function does in fact include repeated addition as a means of informing the…

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