### How small is the math canon?

Posted:

**Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:20 pm**I heard something that intrigued me the other day.

My school is writing a tournament for January 2011. Naturally, I am writing the math questions. I told a member of my team that I was about 1/4 done and he said something to the effect that it's hard to write math since the math canon is so small. (Math, unless otherwise stated, is assumed to be noncomputational.)

Is this true?

I would argue not. Certainly there are reasons to believe the canon is small. The main one, in my opinion, is that the collective answer spaces of math questions in quizbowl is much smaller than in other areas. However, this is also a result of several factors. Math is a very small portion of many distributions, often being demoted to a subfield of science. In addition, in formats in which math plays a larger role (like IHSA, where it makes up 20% of the distro), it is dominated by comp math.

Considering that most students (in my experience) take math every semester of high school and the typical math class covers much more content than a class on novels, for instance, why is it that the math canon appears smaller than the novels canon?

I argue that the math canon is (or ought to be considered) quite large, including:

(1) Mathematicians - If Nobel Prize winners are fair game in science and literature, so too should Fields Medalists be fair game in math.

(2) 20th century math - The development of math did not end when Newton and Leibniz "discovered calculus", but that appears to be the case, with a handful of notable exceptions, in most answer spaces.

(3) History of math

(4) All of computer science

(5) Accessible fields of advanced math, such as graph theory, basic set theory, propositional logic, Boolean algebra, basic abstract algebra, some non-Euclidean geometries and topological surfaces, and basic point-set topology

(6) The entire high school mathematics curriculum

To me, this seems like quite a nice, large canon while still being comparable to the kinds of things we would expect quizbowlers to know in other fields.

Thoughts?

My school is writing a tournament for January 2011. Naturally, I am writing the math questions. I told a member of my team that I was about 1/4 done and he said something to the effect that it's hard to write math since the math canon is so small. (Math, unless otherwise stated, is assumed to be noncomputational.)

Is this true?

*Is*the math canon really that small?I would argue not. Certainly there are reasons to believe the canon is small. The main one, in my opinion, is that the collective answer spaces of math questions in quizbowl is much smaller than in other areas. However, this is also a result of several factors. Math is a very small portion of many distributions, often being demoted to a subfield of science. In addition, in formats in which math plays a larger role (like IHSA, where it makes up 20% of the distro), it is dominated by comp math.

Considering that most students (in my experience) take math every semester of high school and the typical math class covers much more content than a class on novels, for instance, why is it that the math canon appears smaller than the novels canon?

I argue that the math canon is (or ought to be considered) quite large, including:

(1) Mathematicians - If Nobel Prize winners are fair game in science and literature, so too should Fields Medalists be fair game in math.

(2) 20th century math - The development of math did not end when Newton and Leibniz "discovered calculus", but that appears to be the case, with a handful of notable exceptions, in most answer spaces.

(3) History of math

(4) All of computer science

(5) Accessible fields of advanced math, such as graph theory, basic set theory, propositional logic, Boolean algebra, basic abstract algebra, some non-Euclidean geometries and topological surfaces, and basic point-set topology

(6) The entire high school mathematics curriculum

To me, this seems like quite a nice, large canon while still being comparable to the kinds of things we would expect quizbowlers to know in other fields.

Thoughts?