Why Poking Around Wikipedia Doesn’t Move The Needle on Math Learning

by Justin Skycak on

It's like going to the gym without a solid workout plan in place.

Some people try to learn math by poking around Wikipedia, checking out whatever math articles pique their interest. ‌ They often end up marveling at equations and diagrams, but for the most part they are unable to understand what they’re reading (unless it’s something that they already learned during school).

The end result: a wide variety of different mathematical objects and fields of math sound familiar to them, but they have difficulty describing what those objects and fields actually are, and they are incapable of using them in any sort of problem-solving context.

To understand why this strategy is so ineffective, imagine someone who frequently goes to the gym but doesn’t have a solid workout plan in place.

They sporadically walk around to whatever piece of equipment piques their interest and perform an arbitrary number of reps with some arbitrary weight. After a month of this, they’re disappointed to realize that they look no different in the mirror.

To make any sort of fitness progress, this gym goer will need to meet with a personal trainer to develop a proper workout plan. The personal trainer will help them choose a sequence of exercises that will help them make progress towards their fitness goals.

In each exercise, the amount of weight will be calibrated so that the weight can successfully be lifted, but there is sufficient struggle to stimulate muscle growth. And if any muscle groups turn out to be particularly weak, additional supporting exercises will be included to help strengthen them.