— George Pólya
Context: In my presentation I... follow the genetic method. The essential idea... is that the order in which knowledge has been acquired by the human race will be a good teacher for its acquisition by the individual. The sciences came in a certain order; an order determined by human interest and inherent difficulty. Mathematics and astronomy were the first sciences really worth the name; later came mechanics, optics, and so on. At each stage of its development the human race has had a certain climate of opinion, a way of looking, conceptually, at the world. The next glimmer of fresh understanding had to grow out of what was already understood. The next move forward, halting shuffle, faltering step, or stride with some confidence, was developed upon how well the [human] race could then walk. As for the human race, so for the human child. But this is not to say that to teach science we must repeat the thousand and one errors of the past, each ill-directed shuffle. It is to say that the sequence in which the major strides forward were made is a good sequence in which to teach them. The genetic method is a guide to, not a substitute for, judgement.