How to Think like a Mathematician

Would you like to learn how to think like a mathematician? Stanford professor (and NPR “Math Guy”) Keith Devlin is teaching a free online course through Coursera. It starts in just a few weeks. I’ve signed up. Will you join us?

The prerequisite is to be taking or have finished high school math. If (like me) you took it so long ago that you can’t quite remember, don’t worry: The focus of the course is not on long-forgotten mathematical procedures, but on “learning to think in a certain (very powerful) way.”

Mathematical thinking is not the same as doing mathematics — at least not as mathematics is typically presented in our school system. School math typically focuses on learning procedures to solve highly stereotyped problems. Professional mathematicians think a certain way to solve real problems, problems that can arise from the everyday world, or from science, or from within mathematics itself.

The key to success in school math is to learn to think inside-the-box. In contrast, a key feature of mathematical thinking is thinking outside-the-box — a valuable ability in today’s world. This course helps to develop that crucial way of thinking.

— Keith Devlin
Introduction to Mathematical Thinking


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