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Maths Object: “Groups”, by Georges Papy

I had the idea of doing short videos about mathematical objects I’ve got lying around. First up is a very unconventional group theory textbook.

4 Responses to “Maths Object: “Groups”, by Georges Papy”

  1. Pieter Belmans

    It should be noted that Georges Papy actually was responsible for the reform of the mathematics education in Belgium in the 1960s, and when I was in school in the late 1990s, early 2000s there were still some remnants of his influence visible I presume. I guess (or hope) that no-one outside Belgium had to learn the lists of axioms for groups, rings and fields by heart at the age of 11–12 without ever seeing any example of these (at that time) besides the integers and the rationals. Although I fear that Bourbaki’s influence might have scarred the maths education outside Belgium too in this particular way.

    Also, some older people in Belgium, when you confess that you are a mathematician, will tell you stories of how they were either subjected to the wonders (or horrors) of Papy’s “New Maths”, or how they were just a few years too old and were raised in the ignorance that is a maths education not firmly based on Bourbaki.

  2. Dan

    Thanks for this post! A few weeks ago our local high school library was selling off old books from their collection. I bought a stack of math books for about 25 cents each. I had only glanced at a couple of them (a booklet by Wenninger “Polyhedron Models for the Classroom”, and a book “Analytic Inequalities” by Kazarinoff), when I read your post – the name Papy rang a bell. Sure enough, there it was, sitting in my pile of purchases. I hadn’t seen the brilliant color plates, nor, since it had a dust jacket, the neat little diagram embossed on the cover – thanks to this post, I took a second look. It is quite an interesting book. Truly absurd as a high school text (from the ’60s, when the new math’s import of abstract algebra into secondary, and elementary, education was in full swing), and also unorthodox as a group theory book (unfamiliar definitions and non-standard terminology). The un-stamped circulation card was still in the back of this old library book, and it is in mint condition, so I don’t imagine it was used too many times. Hopefully I’ll get to it soon, so that this copy does not remain completely unappreciated.


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