Quotable Quotes 6

Gems from I.M. Gelfand (1913-2009), the last complete* mathematician who was also a legendary teacher of mathematics:

The most important a student can get from the study of mathematics is the attainment of a higher intellectual level.
In our century of rapid changes, it is impossible to know everything. The goal is to learn how to learn**.
Do not be afraid to ask simple*** questions and receive simple*** answers to them.

* Able to communicate deeply with leading scholars in any field of specialisation. It is not clear if such people still exist in science.

** This must clearly be the reason why you are in a university. If you went there to learn facts, think about this statement again and again. Incidently, think about why Steve Jobs didn’t complete his college education, and yet accomplished so much; why we produce so many graduates, but many are unemployable or can’t even do percentages or fractions (they KNEW, but have “forgotten”, clearly a sign of trouble).

*** Simple is not the same as simplistic.


About Tsung Fei

A teacher, researcher in the bioinformatics division at the University of Malaya
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2 Responses to Quotable Quotes 6

  1. Sophos says:

    Mine explaining the last quote?

    • Tsung Fei says:

      A simple question in algebra is why is the product of two negative numbers positive?
      It’s a simple question, but do an experiment with your friends, and see the response. Try it.
      There’s a simple answer to this, but I only found out about it much later in my life. Because it is simple, I wonder why my teachers in high school didn’t explain it like that, but instead asked us to memorise it as a rule. I don’t think we can understand anything by memorising facts.

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