The Nature of Mathematics: Michael Randy Gabel at TEDxGeorgeMasonU

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Talk given at TEDxGeorgeMasonU, April 6th 2013.
Read full bios and event information at

Dr. Michael Randy Gabel is an Associate Professor of Mathematics and Integrative Studies in George Mason University’s New Century College. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Brandeis University. Professor Gabel’s career at GMU spans nearly 35 years. His TEDx talk compares the nature & structure of mathematics to music. He then goes on to discuss how math is usually lost on most people in school.

Curator: Joe Renaud (@JoePRenaud).
Filming: GMU TV and Adam Scott.
Production Manager: Jessica Teaford (@jessicateaford).
TEDxGeorgeMasonU Team: Andrew Hawkins, Kathleen Wills, AZ Zeller, Brittny Steward, and Myurajan Rubaharan.
Major Sponsors: GMU Office of Student Scholarship, and GMU Office of the Provost.

About TEDx:
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)


Miguel Miguel says:

what is peace?peace,Free from war,Dying,pain and suffering,which is what every man wants.if any man says different there irrational.before space and time came into being there was no wars,pains,suffering of any kind,which means there was peace.sense there was no wars,or any kind of suffering before S-T,peace is not space,or time neither limited to it and therefor spiritual and eternal.the bible speaks of these things and further calls peace God Judges 6:24. and this God will like you to dwell with him Isaiah 32:18. will you accept Jesus?

Hugo Coolens says:

A nice example of "things not to do when you do a presentation": I'd suggest to read:
Trees, maps, and theorems (effective communication for rational minds)
by Jean-luc Doumont
Concerning the "proof of the Pythagorean theorem", there is no explanation why the two large squares should have equal areas, just seeing it is not sufficient

Dipolelo Methi says:

Great content! But he walks around too much, I can not correlate his body language to points he's trying to make. Mathematicians are awkward, that's my conjecture.

Ibrahim Kaya says:

I like the ending. It is surprising but very true.

Keni Angervo says:

The talk itself was too stretched out and basic, didn't really bring anything to the table. Other thing: the volume was way too low on this video. Serious issue.

pjtrusci says:

Great presentation.

Zhao-Yu He says:

The mathematics education in elementary and middle schools in the US are problematic.  I cannot image the professor is using such simple maths to show its importance. What he is talking about is really the content of a maths class of Grade 2 in elementary school in China.  —– A graduate student in Arizona from China

Winston Smith says:

"Problem solved, problem goes away…" Lolwut!? 

djhbrown says:

Proof – as if any were needed, that mathematicians should not be allowed to teach mathematics, let alone teach teachers.  It is clear that he understands what he is saying.  And it is equally clear that he has no idea how to explain what he understands to anyone who doesnt already understand what he understands.

If you dont understand what i am saying, then you shouldn't be a teacher either. 

For example, Jacob Bronowski WAS a good teacher – an excellent one – and in his TV series The Ascent of Man he provides a constructive proof of Pythagoras' theorem – in all likelihood the proof of which Pythagoras himself conceived – that absolutely everyone over the age of three can understand.

This speaker's proof presentation is a tortured version of that constructive proof, presented in such a way as to make it look like magic, which is by definition incomprehensible.  The speaker clearly suffers from that ego problem that so many mathematics teachers have: he thinks "Ha ha, I'm smarter than you", whereas in reality he is merely more autistic.

Avinash Patil says:

the way he talks is quite boring. I am feeling sleepy.

ZenSkin says:

DUDE!  Stop Looking at the fucking display!!!!!!!!!!!

Michael Embley says:

Not a snoozefest at all…simple someone who is very good, presenting something in a measured and deeper way than is usual. Something to be understood and appreciated.

PushhProductions says:

he did it that way because vector arithmetic was created after the pythagorean theorem.

gabby loombo says:

i don't have a lot of back round in math in fact i suck but the way you explained this to me i did understand it so Michael you are wrong! and you have inspired me to learn more about math so thank you!……..

Michael Stein says:

You probably like your way because that's the way you like – no good reason. Your way requires more Math foundation to be intact in a person before that person is ready to understand your way. The presenters way probably requires the least amount of Math foundation to be intact in a person before they're in a position to understand. I also strongly agree with the sentiment — I think that's the point of the presentation – not how to prove the pyth. thm. btw 1/9 = .11111….. not .011111…..

Evan O'Leary says:

while i agree with the sentiment in this video strongly, i cant help but say that i absolutely hate that proof as it offers very little understandng of (why) the pythagorean theorem is true. I like this proof: (where "." is dot product, a and b are orthogonal vectors whose sum is the vector c)
|c||c| = a.a + a.b + b.a + b.b
|c||c| = |a||a| +0 + 0 +|b||b|

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