Supplementing Traditional Symbolic Logic Instruction with Historical Background and Real-World Applications
A thorough understanding of the key concepts of logic is critical for student success. Logic is often not explicitly taught as its own subject in modern curriculums, which results in misconceptions among students as to what comprises logical reasoning. In addition, current standardized testing schemes often promote teaching styles which emphasize students' abilities to memorize set problem-solving methods over their capacities to reason abstractly and creatively. These phenomena, in tandem with halting progress in United States education compared to other developed nations, suggest that implementing logic courses into public schools and universities can better prepare students for professional careers and beyond. In particular, logic is essential for mathematics students as they transition from calculation-based courses to theoretical, proof-based classes. Many students find this adjustment difficult, and existing university-level courses which emphasize the technical aspects of symbolic logic do not fully bridge the gap between these two different approaches to mathematics. As a step towards resolving this problem, this project proposes a logic course which integrates historical, technical, and interdisciplinary investigations to present logic as a robust and meaningful subject warranting independent study. This course is designed with mathematics students in mind, with particular stresses on different formulations of deductively valid proof schemes. Additionally, this class can either be taught before existing logic classes in an effort to gradually expose students to logic over an extended period of time, or it can replace current logic courses as a more holistic introduction to the subject. The first section of the course investigates historical developments in studies of argumentation and logic throughout different civilizations; specifically, the works of ancient China, ancient India, ancient Greece, medieval Europe, and modernity are investigated. Along the way, several important themes are highlighted within appropriate historical contexts; these are often presented in an ad hoc way in courses emphasizing technical features of symbolic logic. After the motivations for modern symbolic logic are established, the key technical features of symbolic logic are presented, including: logical connectives, truth tables, logical equivalence, derivations, predicates, and quantifiers. Potential obstacles in students' understandings of these ideas are anticipated, and resolution methods are proposed. Finally, examples of how ideas of symbolic logic are manifested in many modern disciplines are presented. In particular, key concepts in game theory, computer science, biology, grammar, and mathematics are reformulated in the context of symbolic logic. By combining the three perspectives of historical context, technical aspects, and practical applications of symbolic logic, this course will ideally make logic a more meaningful and accessible subject for students.