[plt-scheme] Re: Why "lambda"?

From: Jordan Johnson (jmj at fellowhuman.com)
Date: Tue May 26 15:31:14 EDT 2009

On Tue, May 26, 2009 at 12:16:52PM -0700, wooks wrote:
> On May 26, 7:18 pm, hend... at topoi.pooq.com wrote:
> > Secone, mathematicians have always used a large variety of kinds of
> > symbols and type faces to systematically distinguish different kinds of
> > things, a kind of informal static typing that makes their formulas more
> > visually distinctive and easier to follow.
> >
> > Greek letters are just part of that.
> The letters a-z are also visually distinctive. Seriously, I've been in
> classes where the use of  s and t in formulas where people are used to
> seeing x and y can be enough to instil a feeling of befuddlement in
> some non-math majors.

Sure, that happens.  It happens when nobody's taken the time
to actually teach the student -- explicitly! -- the writing
conventions we follow.  We follow those conventions because
they help us communicate clearly -- even though it looks
like gibberish to the uninitiated.

Example:  I'm teaching HS geometry at the moment.  I took
over from an instructor who *didn't* take the time to do
this, and all of my students were accustomed to turning in
assignments where they used "x" for just about everything.
Once I decided to devote the time to teaching formulas (and
started grading them on their communication skills),
everybody's writing (and, ostensibly at least,
understanding) started to improve.

Language is like the air we breathe, until we pay attention
to it.


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