Ageism and mathematics
For those of us who are “of a certain age”, it’s encouraging to read this piece presenting some evidence against the presumption that, in the words of GH Hardy, “mathematics is a young man’s game”. The gender part of this claim was debated a little while ago, in relation to the highly mathematized fields of economics and analytical philosophy. The age part of it is also interesting and is related, as Jordan Ellenberg points out to the idea that mathematical progress is a matter of huge intuitive leaps.
It’s striking that, whereas vast amounts of intellectual energy and research effort have been expended on determining whether gender differences in mathematical ability are biologically or socially determined, discussion about age differences is still at the level of casual conjecture. Since discussion is at this level, I’ll throw in the casual conjecture that age differences in research output and creativity are due at least as much to socially determined career structures, as to the biological effects of aging.