Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Straight edge, compass and pencil

I doubt anybody teaches Euclid's Elements anymore, which is a shame. Many years ago, early in my high school days, I had to take a Geometry class. It seemed fairly useless at the time, but it was fascinating none the less. I spent hours with my compass and straight edge working from one proof to the next.

Upon reflection it turned out not to be useless at all. It was the first time I was exposed to a rigorous method of stepping from proof to proof to build a logical structure. In short, in its own abstract way, it did a wonderful job of teaching critical thinking. I wonder if today's school exercises on that skill do anywhere near as good a job?

I found a website dedicated to Euclid's Elements. It has all of his books in HTML form, as well as a java applet that provides you with a digital compass and straight edge.  So, if out of either curiosity, nostalgia or geometric masochism you have a notion to fiddle with the proofs -- have at it.     


OMMAG said...

Thanks for that .... releasing my inner nerd....

Knucklehead said...

As odd a duck as I am, I was at my very oddest taking HS geometry. I used to sit during tests and go back and perform proofs 2 and 3 different ways while waiting for time to expire. The teacher thought I was a math talent and my fellow classmates thought there was something seriously wrong with me. My classmates were MUCH closer to the truth.