“…There’s a long history of high caliber mathematicians finding their experiences with school mathematics alienating or irrelevant. “
In Récoltes et Semailles Fields Medalist Alexander Grothendieck describes an experience of the type that Alain Connes mentions:
I can still recall the first “mathematics essay” (math test, or Composition Mathématique) , and that the teacher gave it a bad mark. It was to be a proof of “three cases in which triangles were congruent.” My proof wasn’t the official one in the textbook he followed religiously. All the same, I already knew that my proof was neither more nor less convincing than the one in the book, and that it was in accord with the traditional spirit of “gliding this figure over that one.” It was self-evident that this man was unable or unwilling to think for himself in judging the worth of a train of reasoning. He needed to lean on some authority, that of a book which he held in his hand. It must have made quite an impression on me that I can now recall it so clearly.