Weightlifting for the Brain

At the beginning of the school year, students began learning of a new Saturday afternoon math class through word of mouth. Because it is not an official Webb course, Dr. Thomas Cuda’s mini-course on mathematical proofs is not included in course listings, is not for credit, and does not assign students grades. 

Michael Hutchings, a professor of mathematics at UC Berkeley, defines a mathematical proof as “an argument which convinces other people that something is true.” Though Dr. Cuda’s class explores advanced mathematical ideas, it is open to students of all math levels. His original course proposal emphasized that a willingness to try new things and fail is essential to studying proofs.

Unlike Webb’s math courses, which focus on using equations and formulas, the proofs course teaches students to think through why a theorum is true and how to prove it. They can then apply this skill to any field of study. Dr. Cuda says it will be particularly valuable to students once they enter college.

“I think it can make a big difference, even if it’s not mathematical—if you can think about something and re-represent it in a new way, it helps you sort of figure it out just because you represented it differently,” said Dr. Cuda. “I really do believe it makes you smarter. So, I think that’s a good reason to do it in and of itself. I think it’s like weightlifting of your brain.”

Check out the Webb Canyon Chronicle’s article for a student’s perspective. Image by Webb Canyon Chronicle.

March 27, 2024

11:02 AM PDT