Historically, math and science have had their own language, so to speak. Geek speak – complex phrases and nerdy nomenclature have made it a world in which one must be “admitted” (no pun intended, although it surely can be crazy).
I’ve spent the past three years in a technical and scientific environment, and the majority of my academic years with strong focus in math and science. It’s clear to me that bubbles form from which the admitted can rarely escape. That’s because there is a standard by which many professors, scientists, mathematicians, and researchers live and it includes living the language of their subject. But for me, the teachers and mentors that have had the greatest impact on me were those that could speak plain English to me while still teaching the concepts and theorems without loss of transmitted information. They successfully connected plain English with geek speak.
Naturally, within any subject, company, or even group of friends, it’s expected for a lexicon to be developed and learned. It’s important for that standard dictionary of terms and phrases to exist as it creates the social networks and communities that fuel collaborative innovation. But again, those bubbles need to have a more permeable film, to allow a constant admission of newbies no longer deterred by a language barrier.
A recent Sept 2009 Wired Magazine article talks about this, particularly for those in middle and high school. Author Daniel Roth states, “If we want to reform education, we have to make it cool to be a geek.” This is exactly the point. Connect the notion of fitting in with the realms of math and science by connecting the languages and the culture at specific educational levels. If nerdiness can become a part of everyday life, the bubble will not only expand but the film will become more permeable. The positive results will be seen in technological advancement, discovery, and common understanding.
To conclude, the ability to communicate complex concepts and theorems in a way that’s easily understood by a new learner is essential. It’s essential for building a more connected society – one with greater educational opportunity and understanding. In other words, the societal congruence at time t will optimize the combinatorial pathways for achievement at time t+1.