America Will Run Out Of Good Questions By 2050

Math with Bad Drawings

Or, Math Class is Too Full of Spoilers

In grad school, my wife took a class that assigned no homework. The topic was an advanced, hyper-specific area of research—the only plausible problems to give for homework had literally never been solved. Any answer to such a question would have constituted novel research, advancing the field and meriting a publication in a professional journal. The professor assigned no homework for the simple reason that there was no practical homework to assign.

This tickled me. I’d never thought of good questions like a fossil fuel. A nonrenewable resource. Built up over eons and consumed in minutes.

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But the thought kept popping back up: Good questions are a resource. And in this new light, something started to make sense, an uncomfortable little fact that had nagged at me since my first year teaching.

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