...as dinner winds down, George Csordas, a distinguished-looking functions theorist from the University of Hawaii, confesses that he never balances his checkbook. "I hate doing the math," he says with a broad smile. Victor Vinnikov from Israel's Ben Gurion University jumps in. "It's restaurant checks for me," he says. "I can calculate the 15 percent tip, but adding it back in -- forget it."
It's my understanding that mathematics at the level that's practiced at American Institute of Mathematics (where the preceding conversation took place) exists in a realm of almost pure abstraction. That is, attempts to prove the Riemann hypothesis and other thorny problems take place in a world of symbolic logic that bears as much resemblance to calculating your taxes as conversation does to spell-checking. Anyone more mathematically inclined than myself want to confirm or deny that? (And what does it say about mathematical education that many Americans leave school with the impression that math is mostly about sums and keeping your decimal points straight?) >> Chasing down zeros at math camp | Christian Science Monitor