Geometry and other mathematics courses aren't being taught well, and that's the reason most people don't enjoy them, according to a mathematics expert.
John C. Polking, former director of the National Science Foundation Division of Mathematical Sciences, recounted the recent negative comment he got from a dental assistant when she found he was scheduled to speak in Utah on the role of geometry in national education reform.Usually, said Polking, the public is less specific, plainly expressing a great dislike of all mathematical sciences in general.
And no wonder. Polking alluded to dry formulas and complicated figures that don't seem to relate to reality.
But geometry didn't stagnate when Euclid - author of the basic work in geometry - died, said Polking, who spoke at the University of Utah's "Science at Breakfast" lecture on Wednesday. Local business people and educators who attended were eager to learn more about the recently established Regional Geometry Institute.
RGI will hold its first summer session June 24 through July 20 in Park City. The institute's mission is to improve the teaching of geometry at the high school and college undergraduate levels as well as stimulate student interest in mathematics, science or engineering as career fields.
Utah's institute is one of only two in the country. The other is located in Massachusetts.
During the upcoming summer session, high school teachers from several states, graduate and undergraduate students, doctoral and world-leading geometry researchers will get together to "find better ways of communicating the idea of geometrics (to students)," Polking said.
Unfortunately, Utah will only have two high school teachers at the Park City session this year, said Herb Clemens, U. math professor and RGI principal investigator.
Because of funding cuts, Clemens said, RGI had to ask high schools whether they would be able to send representatives at their own expense. Only Taylorsville High was able to come up with the necessary funds to let two teachers participate.
RGI is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation for approximately 21/2 years. The funds are designed to help regional institutes get established. After that, the institute is expected to come up with funds from local agencies and interested businesses.