Mathematics for Human Flourishing

Why does the practice of mathematics often fall short of our ideals and hopes? How can the deeply human themes that drive us to do mathematics be channeled to build a more beautiful and just world in which all can truly flourish? – Dr. Francis Su

At the 2017 Joint Mathematics Meetings Dr. Francis Su, the outgoing president of the MAA, gave the retiring MAA presidential address titled “Mathematics for Human Flourishing.”

Francis Su. Photo Credit: Kate Awtrey, Atlanta Convention Photography

Elsewhere I have mentioned a previous talk by Francis Su on the “Lesson of Grace in Teaching.” In this most recent address, Dr. Su gives another amazing lecture on the nature and purpose of mathematics. Dr. Su is a great example of a Christian striving to better his discipline and to honor God by serving as an advocate in the public square.

Dr. Su begins by quoting the philosopher Simone Weil, “Every being cries out silently to be read differently.” What follows is an insightful commentary on the desires we all have as human beings and where those desires intersect with the discipline of mathematics. He ends by returning to reference Simone Weil.

She had found a path through struggle to virtue.
She understood that mathematics is for human flourishing.
The mathematical experience cannot be separated from love!
The love between friends who play with a mathematical problem.
The love between teacher and student working to help each other flourish.

The love of a community like the Mathematical Association of America working with each other towards a common goal: through the knowledge and virtues wrought by mathematics, to help everyone flourish.

Here is the full text of the talk: “Mathematics for Human Flourishing.”

Here is a great summary of the talk and a link to the MAA Facebook page where a video of the talk can be found. 



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