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(The New York Times)   The problem with American schools is that they teach too much math   (nytimes.com) divider line 573
    More: Stupid, Americans, Appalachian State University, Advanced Placement, university system, City University London, trigonometry, School of Medicine, high schools  
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18722 clicks; posted to Main » on 30 Jul 2012 at 4:44 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-07-30 07:30:43 PM  

buckler: Dafatone: I taught part-time (homework center help) at a small college where the students were by and large unimpressive.

The ones who needed the most help were in what I guess was basic algebra. Fractions with variables, stuff like that.

It's really, really hard to teach factoring to kids who have trouble grasping negative numbers. I'm still stumped at how to explain it, since to me it's been an intuitive / guess and check sorta thing.

I always found language to be interpretive, but math to be incomprehensible. The "one right way, one right answer" approach just never clicked with me. I always wanted to ask "but why is that the case?", and found "because it's a fundamental property of our universe," to be unsatisfying as an answer. I'm not saying that isn't the case, but the way in which my brain approaches problems just doesn't seem to mesh with it, for some reason.


Then you suck at following instructions?

That's what math can be reduced to. Your ability to follow instructions. Being able to visually recognize certain symbols and knowing what instructions to follow when you see them.

Now understanding the full meanings of those symbols, why they work the way they do, what you're really doing when you manipulate them, and how to use that understanding to solve actual questions is where the real learning comes in (and can be pretty challenging depending on the mathematical discipline), but at its basic level, you're just following instructions.

You can almost certainly do 1 + 1, you know what instructions to follow, so really when you see 7x - 7 = 42 all you are really doing is knowing how to recognize what to do when you see those symbols, what instructions to follow.
 
2012-07-30 07:31:27 PM  

ProfessorOhki: The ability to think "outside the box" doesn't count in hard science.

"Hey guys, what if light can be thought of as a wave?"
"Haha, good one Huygens, everyone knows it's a particle. Now get back to work."


Thank you so much for that.
 
2012-07-30 07:32:04 PM  
Hogwash, and dangerous hogwash at that.

You Farkers got any idea what they are learning in India, China, Pakitan, Bangla--Desh and Indonesia?
 
2012-07-30 07:33:34 PM  

olddinosaur: Hogwash, and dangerous hogwash at that.

You Farkers got any idea what they are learning in India, China, Pakitan, Bangla--Desh and Indonesia?


Dashes deceive you, friend, dedash, please.

Thank you.
 
2012-07-30 07:34:06 PM  

Kimothy: I think it's more a problem of not knowing how to teach math, or teaching it in a way that's supposed to help students pass the four or five standardized tests a year rather than really understanding mathematical concepts. Reduce the emphasis on testing and emphasize actual knowledge, application, and critical thinking and you'll see students improve.

That said, I don't think I use much math beyond the stuff you learn in elementary school, except maybe some geometry now and then, and I think that's probably a pretty typical thing. Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives. Their definitely not using trig or calculus, unless they pursued careers that use those things. The problem is, the author's argument can be applied to lots of subjects. People don't need history everyday, either, but that doesn't mean those subjects aren't valuable.


STATS!!!

I was lucky enough to have awesome math and stats in my magnet public school program but gosh... I tutored and teaching to the test is awful. The main thing about math is even if you can't use it everyday the problem solving - evaluating what you need to do, what tools you have and how to apply them - that's so damn important ...

But stats especially. Learning what they really MEAN... I had to help so many liberal science folks who thought they'd never need to use it then were failing stats 101 because they only checked out the book on reserve and figured they'd memorize. Memorizing is easy to do and teach. Applying is harder and more important, as my many open book engin exams would attest.
 
2012-07-30 07:34:17 PM  

Kimothy: Explodo: Kimothy: I think it's more a problem of not knowing how to teach math, or teaching it in a way that's supposed to help students pass the four or five standardized tests a year rather than really understanding mathematical concepts. Reduce the emphasis on testing and emphasize actual knowledge, application, and critical thinking and you'll see students improve.

That said, I don't think I use much math beyond the stuff you learn in elementary school, except maybe some geometry now and then, and I think that's probably a pretty typical thing. Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives. Their definitely not using trig or calculus, unless they pursued careers that use those things. The problem is, the author's argument can be applied to lots of subjects. People don't need history everyday, either, but that doesn't mean those subjects aren't valuable.

I'll bet you use algebra more than you think. Any time you see a package of 10 somethings for y dollars you might think about how each one of those things costs y/10. That's algebra, Bud.

No, that's division. A basic math skill, generally taught by fourth grade or so.


What are your thoughts on English?

Really though, you're completely right: Algebra is a basic math skill that should be vaguely understood by fourth grade or so. Anything that uses a variable is algebra. You know those little kid homework problems that say "5 + *box* = 6; fill in the box?" Yeah, that's algebra at it's barest roots.
 
2012-07-30 07:34:34 PM  

umad: I had to take college bound English before I went to college to major in Engineering. You can take a little bit of math, cupcake. It won't kill you.


Been there done that. You know how much algebra I use? None. The point I was making is that there are more useful math classes than college algebra and pre-calc. Language skills > math skills in the real world because if you can't communicate, how will anyone know about your wonderful engineering skills.
 
2012-07-30 07:35:38 PM  

buckler: umad: Because People in power are Stupid: buckler: I find those to be creative (and accurate, in a sense) answers to math questions that might be given by liberal arts majors. I wonder if there are similar answers to English problems submitted by math majors.

There is no right answer because most of those classes are graded subjectively. Math is graded objectively. Which is what most people who hate math are actually hating. The lack of political sway that their "feel good" best intentions can muster -don't matter when solving a math problem.

Which is exactly why this article was written.

My friend, I think you hit the nail on the head.

Not really. For me, it isn't about "feeling good" about an answer, it's about the difficulties in comparing one way of structuring things vs. another. Please don't drag that "everyone's a winner" crap into this. It doesn't apply.


Where the hell did you get "everyone's a winner" from either post? You can't talk your way out of a wrong answer in math. That pisses people off when they get away with it everywhere else.
 
2012-07-30 07:37:15 PM  
The problem with American schools it that we have turned them into powerless babysitters.
 
2012-07-30 07:38:45 PM  

slayer199: umad: I had to take college bound English before I went to college to major in Engineering. You can take a little bit of math, cupcake. It won't kill you.

Been there done that. You know how much algebra I use? None. The point I was making is that there are more useful math classes than college algebra and pre-calc. Language skills > math skills in the real world because if you can't communicate, how will anyone know about your wonderful engineering skills.


I personally rank Cultural Literacy much higher. It drives me crazy when I make a common reference and the younger people who work around me look at me stupid.

I grant, I'm an MSTie, I grew up with the concept of esoteric references. But if I say "My father my father why hath you forsaken me?" in reference to my boss not being around when I need his mostly useless butt, I'd prefer people understand where its from!
 
2012-07-30 07:38:54 PM  
You don't even need algebra to balance a budget, but somehow the United States is not able to do so.

Why don't they teach math to politicians? And why do you (United States voters who keep voting for the two main parties) keep voting for these morons?
 
2012-07-30 07:39:24 PM  

ProfessorOhki: Kimothy: Explodo: Kimothy: I think it's more a problem of not knowing how to teach math, or teaching it in a way that's supposed to help students pass the four or five standardized tests a year rather than really understanding mathematical concepts. Reduce the emphasis on testing and emphasize actual knowledge, application, and critical thinking and you'll see students improve.

That said, I don't think I use much math beyond the stuff you learn in elementary school, except maybe some geometry now and then, and I think that's probably a pretty typical thing. Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives. Their definitely not using trig or calculus, unless they pursued careers that use those things. The problem is, the author's argument can be applied to lots of subjects. People don't need history everyday, either, but that doesn't mean those subjects aren't valuable.

I'll bet you use algebra more than you think. Any time you see a package of 10 somethings for y dollars you might think about how each one of those things costs y/10. That's algebra, Bud.

No, that's division. A basic math skill, generally taught by fourth grade or so.

What are your thoughts on English?

Really though, you're completely right: Algebra is a basic math skill that should be vaguely understood by fourth grade or so. Anything that uses a variable is algebra. You know those little kid homework problems that say "5 + *box* = 6; fill in the box?" Yeah, that's algebra at it's barest roots.


And an apostrophe error too?

;)
 
2012-07-30 07:40:35 PM  

cuzsis: In your everyday life you'll use:

-Addition/subtraction/multiplication/division (mostly bills)
-Geometry (not often, but enough)
-Basic chemistry (mostly cleaning related)
-Reading (directions)
-Writing/Typing

In your life as a citizen you will hopefully use:

-History (so you remember enough not to vote for things that didn't work the first time)
-Stats (so you can interpret data for yourself.)
-Comprehensive reading (so you can understand if a study or article has a logical flaw.)

Yes, you can get away with knowing the bare minimum and still living your day to day life....but politicians, businesses and other such folks who know more will be able to run your environment into the ground without you realizing it.



Politicians, businesspeople and other such folks dominate because of their strong social abilities: networking, ass-kissing, cunning and so forth. Business acumen and a sense of the market/political flow come next. Logical, math-minded people make poor politicians and executives because they are too rigid in their thinking. Not always, but often enough for it to be a rule.
 
2012-07-30 07:42:54 PM  

slayer199: umad: I had to take college bound English before I went to college to major in Engineering. You can take a little bit of math, cupcake. It won't kill you.

Been there done that. You know how much algebra I use? None. The point I was making is that there are more useful math classes than college algebra and pre-calc. Language skills > math skills in the real world because if you can't communicate, how will anyone know about your wonderful engineering skills.


If we are talking about cutting things that don't get used by most people in the real world, why aren't we talking about art? Or music? Hint: It's because "not using it in the real world" isn't the reason you morons want to get rid of it.
 
2012-07-30 07:43:32 PM  
A TYPICAL American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal? I've found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldn't.

Poor foundational skills and a focus on algorithm rather than reasoning and rationale are the causes of this ordeal. This is not a case of high school or college students being incapable of understanding and working with algebra but of the current set of high school and college students being failed by previous years. By high school, students begin to work well with the abstract, but previous years preparing for manipulation of numbers in the abstract must be via concrete methods to provide students the tools necessary.

Develop rather than attempt to teach numeracy. Avoid using algorithms as the content. All mathematics education prior to high school should begin with manipulatives, and all mathematics education should begin based in problem-solving. The issue with mathematics is the subject is easy to fall to the abstract; imagine teaching music without giving students an instrument or reading without giving students a book.

Making mathematics mandatory prevents us from discovering and developing young talent.
I agree with the intent but disagree with the focus. Mathematics education is not a hindrance to discovering and developing talents. Mathematics is an important ability itself, and mathematical/logical reasoning is useful in visual fields. Absolute focus on two subjects to the detriment of all others, especially taught poorly for a great many years, does prevent us, though.
 
2012-07-30 07:43:44 PM  
Don't care; my kid is half Indian, so he already knows math.

In all seriousness, all our CFD guys are Chinese or Indian. Our company wants to hire Americans in the worst way, but I only see foreign resumes for all the tech positions. More math, a better approach to teaching, and get rid of the notion that higher learning is for elitists. STEM PhD programs should be filled with Americans, not foreigners, but that's another story.
 
2012-07-30 07:44:03 PM  
Instead of dumbing dowm academics to help students pass, we should recognize that some kids need a different kind of education, e.g. vo-tech instead of high school. If you cant make a passing grade in algebra, you would have to be truly exceptional in other ways to merit a college-level education.
 
2012-07-30 07:46:53 PM  
Personally I think schools should always teach one math level above what they want the kids to learn (when possible). Want to teach a kid Algebra? Spend the first 3/4ths of the year teaching him Trig. Even if he only learns 1/4 of the trig stuff when you step back to Algebra at the end of the year he will tear through it in no time because he will already understand the underlying concepts, having been using them for the last few months without realizing it. It sounds bass-ackwards, but it really would work with most kids.
 
2012-07-30 07:50:00 PM  

"Just think of how stupid the average median person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!"

--George Carlin


FTF George.
 
2012-07-30 07:50:10 PM  

Animatronik: Instead of dumbing dowm academics to help students pass, we should recognize that some kids need a different kind of education, e.g. vo-tech instead of high school. If you cant make a passing grade in algebra, you would have to be truly exceptional in other ways to merit a college-level education.


Yes!

I'm a math-wizard, and can cruise by just doing contracting and what-not. But I can't fix my own plumbing or car. Grr.

Another vo-tech I know guy can fix my plumbing or car, and we get paid the same amount per hour. And it is an insane rate. Granted he smells up my house, but that goes away after a day or so.

Problem solved!
 
2012-07-30 07:51:08 PM  

umad: buckler: umad: Because People in power are Stupid: buckler: I find those to be creative (and accurate, in a sense) answers to math questions that might be given by liberal arts majors. I wonder if there are similar answers to English problems submitted by math majors.

There is no right answer because most of those classes are graded subjectively. Math is graded objectively. Which is what most people who hate math are actually hating. The lack of political sway that their "feel good" best intentions can muster -don't matter when solving a math problem.

Which is exactly why this article was written.

My friend, I think you hit the nail on the head.

Not really. For me, it isn't about "feeling good" about an answer, it's about the difficulties in comparing one way of structuring things vs. another. Please don't drag that "everyone's a winner" crap into this. It doesn't apply.

Where the hell did you get "everyone's a winner" from either post? You can't talk your way out of a wrong answer in math. That pisses people off when they get away with it everywhere else.


From your agreement with the post that you were responding to. Look, I know that math is an objective field. I understand that. I was expressing my amusement with the fact that, when approached from another perspective, the answers to those problems are all correct. Like I said, it's a clash of disciplines that gives sometimes surprising results. When you use words to express a problem, it puts it into the purview of language, which may come up with interesting responses to what would otherwise be a purely mathematical problem. If you wrote an equation on a board, putting X's in certain spaces, and asking for students to solve for X, English would have no way to touch it. By using words, it falls squarely into the domain of English as much as it does math, so I find the creative answers to be amusing. That's all.
 
2012-07-30 07:51:15 PM  

red5ish: How much does your IP attorney use calculus, or does s/he just charge you $800/hour and call it good?


how does ANYONE who took calculus use it? other than teachers and engineers?
Hell I have minor it math ... whatever ...

being able to think logically and solve problems? that was what I learned and practiced in school
 
2012-07-30 07:52:25 PM  

buckler: ProfessorOhki: The ability to think "outside the box" doesn't count in hard science.



Not true in theoretical physics.

\getting a PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics
 
2012-07-30 07:52:59 PM  
2 + 2 = 4
 
2012-07-30 07:58:24 PM  

Agent Smiths Laugh: Then you suck at following instructions?

That's what math can be reduced to. Your ability to follow instructions. Being able to visually recognize certain symbols and knowing what instructions to follow when you see them.


That's why math is not taught properly.

People with an innate grasp of math teach it. That's why everyone thinks it's hard. If you start fencing against Zorro, Dartanian, and Ingio Montoya and they don't take it easy on you, you're gonna think OMFG FENCING IS IMPOSSIBLE. That's what math class does. It's a bunch of people who automatically get it because of a natural propensity for the skill with years of experience yelling at you for not being born into an artificial way of thinking.

Math class cuts all the important and real life parts of math out and presents it in the least useful, most boring, and an entirely haughty way. And they we act surprised when the only people who can do math really well are boring and haughty and not very practical. You get what you teach.

Like I said in the redlit thread: we shouldn't stop teaching math, we should stop teaching math like we do. Instead of hard rules for making integers have sex for an hour a day, teach real world examples and introduce practical applications from day one. Don't just say "You can use the area of a square to measure your floor." make all the problems "You must carpet this house. Here is the price per square foot per carpet. You have $2000. Which carpet can you afford?"

Witthout that real world anchor right away, most people will never get it.
 
2012-07-30 07:58:44 PM  

Indubitably: And an apostrophe error too?

;)

Pfft, so says the guy who starts a sentence fragment with a conjunction!

FizixJunkee: buckler: ProfessorOhki: The ability to think "outside the box" doesn't count in hard science.

Not true in theoretical physics.

\getting a PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics


Oh please, you guys can't even determine what's IN the box without collapsing the waveform.
 
2012-07-30 07:59:04 PM  
as an engineer, i use y=mx+b once in a while.

and the bernouli equation
and mannings
 
2012-07-30 07:59:12 PM  

Agent Smiths Laugh: buckler: Dafatone: I taught part-time (homework center help) at a small college where the students were by and large unimpressive.

The ones who needed the most help were in what I guess was basic algebra. Fractions with variables, stuff like that.

It's really, really hard to teach factoring to kids who have trouble grasping negative numbers. I'm still stumped at how to explain it, since to me it's been an intuitive / guess and check sorta thing.

I always found language to be interpretive, but math to be incomprehensible. The "one right way, one right answer" approach just never clicked with me. I always wanted to ask "but why is that the case?", and found "because it's a fundamental property of our universe," to be unsatisfying as an answer. I'm not saying that isn't the case, but the way in which my brain approaches problems just doesn't seem to mesh with it, for some reason.

Then you suck at following instructions?

That's what math can be reduced to. Your ability to follow instructions. Being able to visually recognize certain symbols and knowing what instructions to follow when you see them.

Now understanding the full meanings of those symbols, why they work the way they do, what you're really doing when you manipulate them, and how to use that understanding to solve actual questions is where the real learning comes in (and can be pretty challenging depending on the mathematical discipline), but at its basic level, you're just following instructions.

You can almost certainly do 1 + 1, you know what instructions to follow, so really when you see 7x - 7 = 42 all you are really doing is knowing how to recognize what to do when you see those symbols, what instructions to follow.


Yes, I understand that, and I can certainly do the basic math that allows me to get by, but in my own experience, there comes a point when the instructions simply stop making sense to me. I'm less inclined to follow them as I am to ask why these rules exist in the first place; I always seem to fall back into an interpretive mode. At some point, the sheer number of these seemingly-arbitrary rules (though I know they aren't) simply overwhelms me. With English, I may have a dozen ways to express the same idea. In math, there is only one correct way; there's little to no room for interpretation, and that's where I get into trouble. I'm expected to memorize hundreds of different rules with absolute precision, and know when to apply them. I don't know why, but for me, I can do that with language, but not numbers.

It isn't a matter of not being able to follow instructions; it's that some rulesests are easier to facilitate than others. I can't really explain it. That's what I mean besides not looking down on people who have a firm grasp of English while being brilliant at math (thanks for the insult, by the way), because I suffer difficulties when approaching things from the opposite direction.
 
2012-07-30 08:00:19 PM  

slayer199: umad: I had to take college bound English before I went to college to major in Engineering. You can take a little bit of math, cupcake. It won't kill you.

Been there done that. You know how much algebra I use? None. The point I was making is that there are more useful math classes than college algebra and pre-calc. Language skills &math skills in the real world because if you can't communicate, how will anyone know about your wonderful engineering skills.


You use algebra all the time. You just don't call it that because you don't write things out formally. Algebra as taught just takes all the stepwise arithemetic you do in your head and gives it expressive written form. Everytime you do something as simple as figuring out your portion of a meal out with friends, you are doing algebra. You just don't organize it systematically as they tried to teach you. That isn't just it's uselessness, norjustyour teachers failure. It's also a failure to recognize the tool or it's usefullness.
 
2012-07-30 08:01:41 PM  

InmanRoshi: rumpelstiltskin: No shiat. That's because you aren't supposed to learn the algorithms; you're supposed to learn how abstraction and reasoning lead to the algorithms. We don't need any more people in the workforce who are experts in applying the quadratic formula, but that simply isn't the point. Mathematical reasoning in workplaces takes the form of abstraction and identification of relationships between abstractions. These are the skills you are supposed to begin to develop in high school "algebra" and geometry. And if you can't, you should be a barrista or some kind of clerk. You have no business making decisions. Or you could be a political science professor, who's work depends heavily on numbers he doesn't understand. You could do that, too.

This.

As someone in a STEM field, have I used "algebra" much in my career? No. Have I used deductive logic that was introduced to me at a young age through the vehicle of Algebra? Yes, hourly.


This is where i am stymied - i dont ever remember getting taught the deductive logic in any math class in high school or middle school. We were given a formula, shown the steps to solve and asked to repeat it. Ta da - dancing monkey...

I learned more deductive logic and practical application of math and formulas in my biology classes & chemistry classes than i ever did in any of my high school math classes.
 
2012-07-30 08:02:24 PM  
"That's what I mean *by*..." Even English sometimes has its pitfalls. Stupid multitasking...
 
2012-07-30 08:02:46 PM  
It is perfectly normal for people to value their personal achievements, such as making their way through the standard sequence of math courses, through hard work and perseverance. It is normal human behavior to be defensive and protective about personal achievements, even to the point (and we see it occurring repeatedly in this thread) of attacking anyone who questions the value (even for themselves) of that achievement.
 
2012-07-30 08:04:54 PM  

lockers: slayer199: umad: I had to take college bound English before I went to college to major in Engineering. You can take a little bit of math, cupcake. It won't kill you.

Been there done that. You know how much algebra I use? None. The point I was making is that there are more useful math classes than college algebra and pre-calc. Language skills &math skills in the real world because if you can't communicate, how will anyone know about your wonderful engineering skills.

You use algebra all the time. You just don't call it that because you don't write things out formally. Algebra as taught just takes all the stepwise arithemetic you do in your head and gives it expressive written form. Everytime you do something as simple as figuring out your portion of a meal out with friends, you are doing algebra. You just don't organize it systematically as they tried to teach you. That isn't just it's uselessness, norjustyour teachers failure. It's also a failure to recognize the tool or it's usefullness.


I see that as akin to the idea that you're doing complex physics calculations in your mind every time you catch a baseball, though it may not be in the time-consuming, written notation you use in the classroom.
 
2012-07-30 08:07:22 PM  

ProfessorOhki: Indubitably: And an apostrophe error too?

;)
Pfft, so says the guy who starts a sentence fragment with a conjunction!

FizixJunkee: buckler: ProfessorOhki: The ability to think "outside the box" doesn't count in hard science.

Not true in theoretical physics.

\getting a PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics

Oh please, you guys can't even determine what's IN the box without collapsing the waveform.


Um,

I've got creative license as a cyber-poet, you?

;)
 
2012-07-30 08:07:23 PM  

Babwa Wawa: common sense is an oxymoron: wingedkat: Babwa Wawa: I went into that article thinking you could get rid of algebra if you replaced it with something more relevant like statistics.

The nation would be much better off if everyone had a basic understanding of stats.

Wait. How exactly do you propose to teach statistics without algebra?

No matter how many times this gets repeated, it isn't enough.

No matter how many times it gets repeated, it doesn't become any more true.

Yes, you need mastery of algebra to master advanced probability and statistics.

Elementary probability and statistics requires - wait for it... An elementary understanding of algebra.

The question is whether the assistant manager at Kroger needs to master algebra, or whether it might be useful to have him know some algebra, as well as some basic stats.


Agreed. There is a difference between understanding how variables work and solving high-order polynomial equations. Unfortunately, TFA seems to advocate replacing algebra with some sort of (actually fairly reasonable in itself) consumer-based math for which at least basic algebra would be a prerequisite. And that oversimplification is what I was aiming at. It turned an otherwise reasonable suggestion into an I-failed-algebra rant.
 
2012-07-30 08:08:12 PM  

slayer199: However, forcing pre-calc and college algebra on college students that will never need either is a waste.


I think one of the overlooked benefits of pre-calc and college algebra is the development of a certain type of critical thinking and logistical reasoning that accompanies the practice of pre-calc material.

Unfortunately, I don't think that said critical thinking and logistical reasoning that is crucial for pre-calc can be developed outside of it, per se, but it still comes in handy in other subject matter that isn't necessarily related to math.

It's a one-way transfer, so it seems.
 
2012-07-30 08:09:05 PM  

pushpinder: Christ, did a cow crap in here? Figures the article would come from a liberal arts major. Know what, take David Copperfield and shove it up your bung hole! If you can't learn a concept that is a few hundred years old, you're an idiot. Math, at its core, is about problem solving whether it is useful for you in life or not, it builds cognitive skills in looking at a problem, breaking it down and finding a solution. It trains the brain to solve problems. Painting happy trees every day will not help you tackle problems you might encounter in the workplace (though they will make your cubicle friendlier).


The author teaches political science. That's a school of belief that you can do anything you want and be successful, without regard to history or science, so long as you keep trying and throw enough money at the problem. Logical thinking would only get in the way.
 
2012-07-30 08:09:44 PM  
They should also teach dimensional analysis when teaching algebra, helps reinforce the need to keep units as well as a way to deduce the right way to solve word problems quickly.
 
2012-07-30 08:10:06 PM  

Thoguh: Kimothy: Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives.

Hamburger meat is $2.99 a pound, how much is three pounds?


48 oz.
 
2012-07-30 08:10:50 PM  
the butt hurt in that article was off the scale.

/somebody didn't pass college algebra the first time around
 
2012-07-30 08:11:21 PM  

slayer199: umad: I had to take college bound English before I went to college to major in Engineering. You can take a little bit of math, cupcake. It won't kill you.

Been there done that. You know how much algebra I use? None. The point I was making is that there are more useful math classes than college algebra and pre-calc. Language skills > math skills in the real world because if you can't communicate, how will anyone know about your wonderful engineering skills.


We can tell you use no math is life by your posts in the politics threads regarding the economy.

It's great we have a population with strong opinions and a belief that they understand macroeconomics and that these people also admit that middle school math has them scratching their heads.
 
2012-07-30 08:11:53 PM  
I think it's all in how you teach a subject.

I (optimistically) believe that anyone can understand anything if whatever's being taught can be done so in a way that relates to something that the student already understands.

Now that I am studying mathematics for its own sake, I can offer one thing that would've helped me immensely as a youngster when it came to learning math.

All those stupid, pointless, boring "exercises?" I could not understand why I'd ever use quadratic equations in life as a youngster, and that's what I thought the exercises were for. What would've helped me out is if someone had told me that doing those exercises is a lot like practicing a musical instrument, or practicing using a shop tool. Doing mathematical exercises is all about getting used to the "feel" of a certain tool. Imagine using a chiseling tool for whittling on some wood. Each time you do that, your goal isn't to carve out David. It's to get used to how the tool feels in your hand, how the wood responds to different pressures and angles, etc. Over time, you can sort of mindlessly do it, much like driving a stick shift. You do it without even thinking about it. The point isn't getting good at calculus or trig and applying it later on to a specific thing, per se, it's all about becoming comfortable with using the various tools. Like a craftsman.

Mathematical exercises are the EXACT same thing in my mind: to get used to handing and wielding the tool effectively, not grinding mindlessly on some super-abstract idea that has zero appreciable impact on your life. It's not so much the ends as it is understanding the means and getting good with manipulating the tool itself. And of all the tools available to us on this planet, none is more pervasive or useful as mathematics.

I gently urge anyone out there who believes themselves (as I once was) to be "not a math person," to give the subject another chance. The hardest part about math is finding a learning resource that resonates with how you naturally learn things.
 
2012-07-30 08:13:05 PM  

buckler: umad: buckler: umad: Because People in power are Stupid: buckler: I find those to be creative (and accurate, in a sense) answers to math questions that might be given by liberal arts majors. I wonder if there are similar answers to English problems submitted by math majors.

There is no right answer because most of those classes are graded subjectively. Math is graded objectively. Which is what most people who hate math are actually hating. The lack of political sway that their "feel good" best intentions can muster -don't matter when solving a math problem.

Which is exactly why this article was written.

My friend, I think you hit the nail on the head.

Not really. For me, it isn't about "feeling good" about an answer, it's about the difficulties in comparing one way of structuring things vs. another. Please don't drag that "everyone's a winner" crap into this. It doesn't apply.

Where the hell did you get "everyone's a winner" from either post? You can't talk your way out of a wrong answer in math. That pisses people off when they get away with it everywhere else.

From your agreement with the post that you were responding to. Look, I know that math is an objective field. I understand that. I was expressing my amusement with the fact that, when approached from another perspective, the answers to those problems are all correct. Like I said, it's a clash of disciplines that gives sometimes surprising results. When you use words to express a problem, it puts it into the purview of language, which may come up with interesting responses to what would otherwise be a purely mathematical problem. If you wrote an equation on a board, putting X's in certain spaces, and asking for students to solve for X, English would have no way to touch it. By using words, it falls squarely into the domain of English as much as it does math, so I find the creative answers to be amusing. That's all.


They are amusing. Amusing and wrong. That is the beauty with math. A problem can be approached from many perspectives, but there will still only be one correct answer.
 
2012-07-30 08:13:06 PM  

Brontes: dimensional analysis


DA is the most useful method of problem solving I've ever learned.
 
2012-07-30 08:13:57 PM  

PlatypusPuke: I think it's all in how you teach a subject.

I (optimistically) believe that anyone can understand anything if whatever's being taught can be done so in a way that relates to something that the student already understands.

Now that I am studying mathematics for its own sake, I can offer one thing that would've helped me immensely as a youngster when it came to learning math.

All those stupid, pointless, boring "exercises?" I could not understand why I'd ever use quadratic equations in life as a youngster, and that's what I thought the exercises were for. What would've helped me out is if someone had told me that doing those exercises is a lot like practicing a musical instrument, or practicing using a shop tool. Doing mathematical exercises is all about getting used to the "feel" of a certain tool. Imagine using a chiseling tool for whittling on some wood. Each time you do that, your goal isn't to carve out David. It's to get used to how the tool feels in your hand, how the wood responds to different pressures and angles, etc. Over time, you can sort of mindlessly do it, much like driving a stick shift. You do it without even thinking about it. The point isn't getting good at calculus or trig and applying it later on to a specific thing, per se, it's all about becoming comfortable with using the various tools. Like a craftsman.

Mathematical exercises are the EXACT same thing in my mind: to get used to handing and wielding the tool effectively, not grinding mindlessly on some super-abstract idea that has zero appreciable impact on your life. It's not so much the ends as it is understanding the means and getting good with manipulating the tool itself. And of all the tools available to us on this planet, none is more pervasive or useful as mathematics.

I gently urge anyone out there who believes themselves (as I once was) to be "not a math person," to give the subject another chance. The hardest part about math is finding a learning resource that reson ...


I really wish now that that had been the approach my teachers had used with me. It might very well have expanded my abilities and confidence in that field. Thanks for that post; it's honestly refreshing to see.
 
2012-07-30 08:15:10 PM  

Smackledorfer: It's great we have a population with strong opinions and a belief that they understand macroeconomics and that these people also admit that middle school math has them scratching their heads.


ZING!
 
2012-07-30 08:15:38 PM  

umad: They are amusing. Amusing and wrong. That is the beauty with math. A problem can be approached from many perspectives, but there will still only be one correct answer.


The beauty with language is that there are many correct answers, and that's the perspective from which these students approached the problems. As language problems, they are all correct.
 
2012-07-30 08:16:00 PM  

arentol: Personally I think schools should always teach one math level above what they want the kids to learn (when possible). Want to teach a kid Algebra? Spend the first 3/4ths of the year teaching him Trig. Even if he only learns 1/4 of the trig stuff when you step back to Algebra at the end of the year he will tear through it in no time because he will already understand the underlying concepts, having been using them for the last few months without realizing it. It sounds bass-ackwards, but it really would work with most kids.


You have the right idea, but you don't understand how it works.


Humans learn passively MUCH BETTER than they learn actively. If you sit down Terminal style and try to learn a foriegn language your head will start to spin and you'll eventually quit and nothing will really be accomplished. However, if you just go somewhere and use the language every single day and talk to people, even if you know next to nothing to start, suddenly you'll be fluent in a few short months.

Math is a skill, same as language. If you sit down and force a kid to try and learn how to fx all day, good farking luck. Put you put that same kid in Physics and place a pizza party on the line for some sort of contest with solid calculus being the means to an end, and suddenly little johnny will find he can do it better than a TI-89 calculator. And the best part is, that second way? It's painless.

That's why we should change math education from mandatory gulag to novel sport. In video games, you learn all kinds of tips and tricks and skills passively. After a few days on an FPS server, you learn tons of tactics and get a good feel for all the in game actions you can take. You never actually have to read up on any of that junk. Make math class a series of real world problems that are dependant on math as opposed to a bunch of crap floating in null space and you'll see marked improvement.

By forcing kids to do trig, you're making them focus on one thing while passively learning algebra. That's okay, but you're still alienating lots of people who will think they're stupid because they can't do the harder stuff and will just give up or slack off. Instead, do something they can accomplish easily but not without the math they need. Applied math first, theory second if at all.
 
2012-07-30 08:17:09 PM  

Thoguh: Kimothy: Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives.

Hamburger meat is $2.99 a pound, how much is three pounds?

Oh shiat! You just used algebra!


you show me an average persons need to know how to expand or factor a polynomial and I'll believe you need high school algebra. You have demonstrated the need for grade 5 algebra. That also includes "I have $20, and beef costs x and potatoes cost y and I like a meal to have a 1:2 ratio of these ingredients, how much can I buy?" , or "my tax rate is 5% on this next purchase, how much will my total bill be for the following shopping list?" Word problems are the classic introduction to algebra and are very applied, and rarely require more than grade 5 algebra.

I agree, everyone needs to have grade 5-6 algebra down cold.


with a wee bit more algebra I can give an intro to Stats class. Enough to understand politics and newspapers. I also need a smidgen more algebra to handle high school chemistry (titration formulas, pH, dilution, moles..). Physics can also be handled at the high school level with grade 7 or 8 algebra.


I'm also a bit tired of the logic that says without deep abstraction from algebra people are unable to reason. Most people I know can't handle any high school algebra I show them, but they are highly functioning adaptable professionals.

heck, gorillas have demonstrated the ability to disarm poacher traps and they can't master math better than 2nd graders.
 
2012-07-30 08:17:35 PM  

Testiclaw: Brontes: dimensional analysis

DA is the most useful method of problem solving I've ever learned.


Yet so skipped over in basic algebra it really blows the mind. It is amazing what a little logic and unit matching can do to a problem.
 
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