On October 8th Anna Baczko-Dombi presented a paper: ‘The Problem of Escaping from Mathematics in a Time-Discounting Perspective.’


Mathematics evokes conflicting emotions and contradictory attitudes as no other school subject. On the one hand, mathematics is treated as the Queen of Sciences; on the other, we observe the widespread acceptance for mathematical ignorance. Generally, the relation to mathematics in society is based on stereotypes, “mathematicians” are contrasted with “humanists”. As mathematical knowledge is of cumulative nature, studying mathematics requires systematic practice and patience. Students “leave” mathematics at different moments of education, considering that they are not suited to be “mathematicians,” they define themselves as “humanists”. This decision has numerous consequences, which narrow down possible paths of future education and options on the labor market. In this presentation, I propose to analyze the problem of escaping from mathematics in terminology of behavioral economics: time-related preferences, time-discounting, and the lack of self-control. In particular, I describe selected results of two studies: the first is an exploratory qualitative research (2010), and the second – quantitative (2011). Both these studies show the mechanisms behind the negative attitudes towards mathematics.