Why people hate mathematics

      Let me tell you a story.

      Once upon a time, there was a magic flute. And it was just what the carpenters needed. For if you played the right tunes before you started work, and played them correctly, then your timber wouldn't warp and your chisels wouldn't slip, and all your joints would fit perfectly. So it was frightfully useful, and all the children were taught to play.

      And there was more to the flute than carpentry. Because if you played not just skilfully, but well, then the sound it made went straight to your heart. So children (and grown-ups too) who could not tell an adze from a spokeshave, would spend long hours practising, for the sweetness of the notes and the joy of exact fingering.

      But there was a problem with this flute. You couldn't hear it unless you were playing it yourself. If you saw someone else playing, they just looked peculiar, doing things which made no sense, in a world of their own. Your flute teachers would be able to see if your fingers were in about the right places and your lips were in about the right shape, but what you were hearing, they would have to guess. And your carpentry teachers would know from your work whether you were getting the tunes more or less right, but have no idea what the problem was if you weren't.

      So it is no wonder, that many children found music an incomprehensible bore, and carpentry a humiliating misery.

Back to home page.