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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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18709 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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2012-07-31 12:38:39 AM

Stoj: I've got one word for this stupid author: Pot Odds.


Shut up about those. Everyone else who knows about them cuts down my EV. Remember, kids, ANY TWO CARDS can win! Don't fold that 83o, because the flop could come up 8-8-3!
 
2012-07-31 12:38:43 AM

Kimothy: 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've actually proposed a 'large' change in what we teach in schools. To put it bluntly, we shouldn't be trying to prepare every student to be a college professer. As it says in the article, you don't need calculus to be a doctor; though I'll point out that I viewed the academic portion of the training for my job/career field more as an extended aptitude test than it actually teaching me anything useful in my job.

What do we teach instead? Well, for one would be HOW to learn. 2nd would be ensuring that a HS graduate has a solid background in 'practical skills'. He or she should be able to balance a checkbook, plan a healthy meal, make a valid determination in a simple liability matter, make a personal budget, understand the common terms of contracts like renting or buying a house, the differences between two loans of different terms, interest rates, etc... They should have a grounding in US and world history - not worrying about dates and places perhaps so much as the 'flow of history'. When President Grant was elected is less important than knowing he came after Lincoln and Johnson. Even that's unimportant compared to understanding the civil war and it's effects. You throw places and dates in there to help kids remember the events, the course, not as something to remember itself. At some point you spend less time on the revolutionary & civil wars, and more on Gandi's movement in India, colonialism, the french revolution, etc...

Basically the same thing as a lot of other people here are saying - make it practical. Ground it in real world problems kids can see themselves doing. Like the 'laying tile' scenario - If you're in a rich district, have the kids 'check the contractor's bid'. If they're in a middle class area, have them do it themselves. Poor area, have them be the contractor. ;)
 
2012-07-31 12:40:57 AM
Also, this is a good thread to post a link to the best pop science article I've ever read on large numbers: Who Can Name the Bigger Number?
 
2012-07-31 12:44:55 AM
This text is now purple:
1. You are attending a school in the United States, correct?

Yes.

2. How many of their less-able countrymen are you not seeing?

Probably lots. In addition, many of them confess that they were tutored or trained on the side by turors. These are people who have been planning grad school for a long long time. But what bothers me is that of the fourty slots in the program, the Americans were out-qualified by 36 of them

3. How often are they cheating in their classes?

Hooboy. You would not believe it. I've had to try to organize the American & senior students to police exams. It's RAMPANT. as someone who has concentration issues, the low chattering in the classroom is just infuriating.
 
2012-07-31 12:50:11 AM

yingtong: Dude, seriously.. it's been 80 years since Kurt Godel proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that math is not the language of the universe


We don't know that the universe itself is internally consistent, which would mean that finding a complete and consistent set of axioms to describe it is a meaningless concept. Using that criteria, you will go on rejecting useful systems that describe subsets of the universe because they don't describe the entire universe. You have effectively just rejected just all science in favor of religion. Good luck. You will need it.
 
2012-07-31 12:52:01 AM

ThrobblefootSpectre: yingtong: Dude, seriously.. it's been 80 years since Kurt Godel proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that math is not the language of the universe

We don't know that the universe itself is internally consistent, which would mean that finding a complete and consistent set of axioms to describe it is a meaningless concept. Using that criteria, you will go on rejecting useful systems that describe subsets of the universe because they don't describe the entire universe. You have effectively just rejected just all science in favor of religion. Good luck. You will need it.


I think that the Universe will end up being internally consistent and that a theory of everything can be discovered. I just think that Godel's Theorem will prevent us from being able to be sure that we've actually discovered the right ToE.
 
2012-07-31 12:54:36 AM

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



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 resou ...


csb: One of the latest sets of traveling exhibits that Ms. Gough and I developed for the regional science center was about math. Only a few of the exhibits were strictly computational; the bulk of them involved other broad math concepts including logic, spatial reasoning, geometry, etc. What was amazing for us to see was the schoolkids who would come in and groan, "I'm no good at math," and then proceed to solve one of the spatial puzzles with amazing ease. What they hadn't understood is that there is a whole world of math aside from arithmetic. It was gratifying to see them make that realization.
 
2012-07-31 12:55:38 AM
Crazy Lee 2012-07-31 12:22:46 AM

Kittypie070 Oh gods...I just remembered I have an Asimov book ON ALGEBRA

Every day I offer up thanks to the Comrades at Tyuratam


Hear hear!

As much as I dislike the Russians on the ground for so many other reasons,
I will always honour them for their rocket men.
 
2012-07-31 12:58:56 AM

Kittypie070: Crazy Lee 2012-07-31 12:22:46 AM

Kittypie070 Oh gods...I just remembered I have an Asimov book ON ALGEBRA

Every day I offer up thanks to the Comrades at Tyuratam

Hear hear!

As much as I dislike the Russians on the ground for so many other reasons,
I will always honour them for their rocket menpersons.


FTFY - they sent up a woman twenty years before we did.
 
2012-07-31 01:03:20 AM

Lord Dimwit: I think that the Universe will end up being internally consistent and that a theory of everything can be discovered


It may well be. However, I maintain that rejecting systems that are known but incomplete, in favor a system that is unknown (unknowable) but complete is the definition of religion.
 
2012-07-31 01:03:57 AM

degenerate-afro: Sticky Hands: fark it.
the Chinese have won.

Not as long as Raptor Regan has a say in matters

[i.imgur.com image 850x478]

The communists will never succeed!


Sniff..... I love Raptor Reagan.

But seriously the subtitle of the editorial which was excluded due to its length was:

"Public School Funding is an important source of cash for democrats and we cant allow the poor results of public education to impede the social engineering of America.....So Dumb it the Fark Down!"
 
2012-07-31 01:04:54 AM

Lord Dimwit: Kittypie070: Crazy Lee 2012-07-31 12:22:46 AM

Kittypie070 Oh gods...I just remembered I have an Asimov book ON ALGEBRA

Every day I offer up thanks to the Comrades at Tyuratam

Hear hear!

As much as I dislike the Russians on the ground for so many other reasons,
I will always honour them for their rocket menpersons.

FTFY - they sent up a woman twenty years before we did.


That's only because our women have much bigger asses brains and wouldn't volunteer to be rocketed into oblivion in a tin can.
 
2012-07-31 01:20:02 AM

rewind2846: FTA: "And if there is a shortage of STEM graduates, an equally crucial issue is how many available positions there are for men and women with these skills. A January 2012 analysis from the Georgetown center found 7.5 percent unemployment for engineering graduates and 8.2 percent among computer scientists. "

Let's see... bust your balls taking the hardest courses, the most units (and some of the highest debt because you don't have time to work) and still get paid like sh*t while watching your back (if you can even find a job) because your idiot potential employers would rather H1-B or outsource your ass as soon as they can... or skate though taking business courses, have a life and work on Wall Street for moar money than gawd...

decisions, decisions...
/college kids can do cost-benefit analysis too


Hey, I worked my ass off the 40% of the time I showed up for class!
 
2012-07-31 01:41:00 AM

buckler: Agent Smiths Laugh: I once tutored someone in electrical theory by teaching him to think of electron flow as a river.

Huh. When I worked in a science museum's exhibits development lab, I made a preliminary sketch of a "water transistor", that would show how inputs affected the output of a transistor, using water, pipes and valves.


Both my intro EE course and my fluids course mentioned the other as an example.

The fun thought is that EE has a perfect voltage source (batteries) but no perfect current source. Fluids has a perfect current source (a dam), but no perfect voltage source.
 
2012-07-31 01:42:18 AM

The Evil That Lies In The Hearts Of Men: I think a big obstacle to math is that it isn't taught in a way that kids can readily see useful applications, so a lot of kids think it's useless and put in the effort they think it deserves. When kids see adults, like the author of TFA, saying math isn't very useful it only reinforces that view.

CSB:

My dad used to be a carpenter. When I was a kid, around 7 or so, I remember I complained about having to do math homework on the basis there was no point to it in the real world. My dad was like "O RLY?" then set about going through a series of exercises with me along the lines of:

"I'm building a roof, the room is 20 feet long and the joists are 16" apart, how many will I need" then "OK, so the roof is on a 2:1 slope, how long do the joists have to be" then "OK, a beam X feet long costs Y, how much will the roof joists cost" and so on. I spent more than a few afternoons getting run through a series of questions like that, where there was a clear and real goal.

I guess it worked, I ended up acing math from elementary school all the way through to the end of an engineering degree.


You understand that all the examples you provided are simple linear equations. That's about 2 days worth of math during the first week of algebra. So what do you teach for the rest of the 9 weeks and 3 days?

Almost all relevant math that people use is linear equations. Rarely will anyone see an equation that goes beyond linear. Maybe, once in a while, a quadratic when computing something to do with area, and cubic when computing something to do with volume (and even then, it's generally linear because people will be adding volume to volume). There's almost no case where people have to deal with degrees higher than 4.

Ironically, there's a lot of logarithmic and exponential examples in real life.
 
2012-07-31 01:49:22 AM

This text is now purple: buckler: Agent Smiths Laugh: I once tutored someone in electrical theory by teaching him to think of electron flow as a river.

Huh. When I worked in a science museum's exhibits development lab, I made a preliminary sketch of a "water transistor", that would show how inputs affected the output of a transistor, using water, pipes and valves.

Both my intro EE course and my fluids course mentioned the other as an example.

The fun thought is that EE has a perfect voltage source (batteries) but no perfect current source. Fluids has a perfect current source (a dam), but no perfect voltage source.


This was for public consumption, so no math, just basic concepts.
 
2012-07-31 01:54:12 AM

buckler: This text is now purple: buckler: Agent Smiths Laugh: I once tutored someone in electrical theory by teaching him to think of electron flow as a river.

Huh. When I worked in a science museum's exhibits development lab, I made a preliminary sketch of a "water transistor", that would show how inputs affected the output of a transistor, using water, pipes and valves.

Both my intro EE course and my fluids course mentioned the other as an example.

The fun thought is that EE has a perfect voltage source (batteries) but no perfect current source. Fluids has a perfect current source (a dam), but no perfect voltage source.

This was for public consumption, so no math, just basic concepts.


Sorry, missed your point. An interesting dichotomy.
 
2012-07-31 01:58:15 AM
Algebra? Yes. Daily life.

Calculus? Yes. Any career in the sciences or with numbers.

Trigonometry? Well... actually, I can see where this should be a specialty class. I mean, it's not so much that it's HARD, it just doesn't have much application unless you're going into drafting or astronomy. So yeah, I can see where students lose patience when it's a required course.

Statistics: HELL fark YES. Should be a farking pre-req for LIFE. I cannot quell the rage that hits me every time somebody miscomposes or miscomprehends a statistical figure in the use of persuasive advertising... SRSLY GUIZE, STATS.
 
2012-07-31 02:04:35 AM
The Voice of Doom: I spent two days preparing for the exam in one "major" (chemistry)..
.. while my preparation for the other (math) consisted of hanging out with a girlfriend whose exams were already over (different "majors"=different days) and 20 minutes of checking that I still had the most important theorems memorized correctly.
With the constant repetition and solving one problem of final exam caliber each week for a year, there was only shiat that you knew you could do and shiat you simply couldn't prepare for (15% of the exam was to solve a kind of problem completely new to you, e.g. having to find a proof for a theorem that you've never heard before)


That's the way exams should be. Difficult enough that there's no way you can cram and with something on it that you haven't seen before that is based on the same principles as what you've been doing.

You can't do Multivariable Calculus if you don't know Calculus. You can't possibly do Calculus if you don't know Algebra. You can't do Algebra if you don't know basic math and order of operations. Passing the test in a math class is pointless if you don't actually understand the material. You'll just fail when you attempt to apply the next level of learning on top of it.

I think that's why the US is so poor at math. People (including educators) don't understand that you can't just study for the test. You actually have to learn it as you go along.
 
2012-07-31 03:02:36 AM
It's true that students in Finland, South Korea and Canada score better on mathematics tests. But it's their perseverance, not their classroom algebra, that fits them for demanding jobs.

...so, we should stop asking students to persevere?
 
2012-07-31 03:36:34 AM
Learning math sucks!!!!!!
Knowing math ROCKS!
 
2012-07-31 03:45:59 AM

This text is now purple: The fun thought is that EE has a perfect voltage source (batteries) but no perfect current source. Fluids has a perfect current source (a dam), but no perfect voltage source.


i.imgur.com

I need to think that over...
 
2012-07-31 04:21:50 AM

The Evil That Lies In The Hearts Of Men: I think a big obstacle to math is that it isn't taught in a way that kids can readily see useful applications, so a lot of kids think it's useless and put in the effort they think it deserves. When kids see adults, like the author of TFA, saying math isn't very useful it only reinforces that view.

CSB:

My dad used to be a carpenter. When I was a kid, around 7 or so, I remember I complained about having to do math homework on the basis there was no point to it in the real world. My dad was like "O RLY?" then set about going through a series of exercises with me along the lines of:

"I'm building a roof, the room is 20 feet long and the joists are 16" apart, how many will I need" then "OK, so the roof is on a 2:1 slope, how long do the joists have to be" then "OK, a beam X feet long costs Y, how much will the roof joists cost" and so on. I spent more than a few afternoons getting run through a series of questions like that, where there was a clear and real goal.

I guess it worked, I ended up acing math from elementary school all the way through to the end of an engineering degree.


Very much this! I really liked math until I got to algebra, because none of my teachers ever bothered to show how it could be usable in the real world. Any questions were met with "It's right there! If you don't get it, I can't help you." It's not that math is hard. It's that too many math majors who go into teaching don't really know how to teach.

/Loved Geometry, and Economics teaches you some really useful equations, too.
 
2012-07-31 04:25:33 AM
Lord F*ckwit 2012-07-31 12:58:56 AM

menpersons.

FarkedTFyM - they sent up a woman twenty years before we did.


Well gosh, what with me being a crazed militant space freak which you can
actually check in many NASA threads on Fark
if you've got the wit to figure
out how, I sure never knew that.

www.sciencephoto.com

My gosh, what else will those dastardly godless Rooskies be up to next, hanging out
with us on an orbiting space station or something!? Let me laugh harder.

Now take your I'm an oh so very sensitive politically correct male lotion and
rub it where it belongs or I'll bust out the hose.
 
2012-07-31 05:32:34 AM
The author has a point. Math is not for everyone. Higher math is required for almost no profession these days. I am not saying that we should make school easier, but I am saying that we should have flexibility about what gets taught past a certain level.

Requiring high school students to learn algebra while cutting funding for arts, and foreign language studies implies that algebra is somehow universally useful. It is not. I respect that it also teaches logical thinking, but where has all this emphasis on math gotten us? Credit card debt and a huge national deficit. We can solve for X but we can't balance our own damned check books.

Some kids are going to be interested and want to pursue careers that require higher math so let them take algebra. Some kids are going to want to do something interesting with their lives so let them study things that will help them with that.

One sized fits all education creates one size of idiot.
 
2012-07-31 06:04:55 AM
How else would you learn that Oscar Had a Heap of Apples?
 
2012-07-31 06:44:07 AM

Deep Contact: How else would you learn that Oscar Had a Heap of Apples?


You find them when you break into his house looking for something to pawn for drugs.
 
2012-07-31 06:44:24 AM

rewind2846: Russky:
I'm not ignoring it at all, the point being there is a higher demand right now for scientific degrees but people aren't taking those.

Perhaps if there were, I dunno, JOBS at the other end of all the bullsh*ttery that one needs to go through to get the degree perhaps more students might take the courses. If there were as much "demand" as some people are whining about (which is just more bullsh*ttery so they can H1-B and outsource this country to death) then unemployment rates in STEM-related careers would be virtually ZERO, and we know that's not happening.


Biblical truth, this^.
 
2012-07-31 06:52:30 AM
Perhaps we should consult...

images.wikia.com
 
2012-07-31 07:34:49 AM

madgonad:
+1
The important skills to learn in algebra are how to manipulate numbers, not just how to solve for x. I work in accounting and finance, and while I seldom use actual algebra, I constantly manipulate numbers in ways that I learned while being taught algebra.


If your situation is anything like my company, then no, you aren't manipulating those numbers with anything you learned in algebra. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. It's just the way you worded that makes me think of my running gag in staff meetings.

I'm a software writer. I understand math quite well; always had high marks and stopped taking courses where they delved into differential calculus as a discipline (think physics majors). I constantly have to grin at what the business side shows in its presentations. The engineers always pick it apart with simple questions. I call it "finance math"... it surely must be based on rules different than what I learned in algebra I way back in 1988 as an 11 year old. My favorite finance math rule is the ability to make up new rules to "massage" the numbers or "manipulate". It's like some sort of game of monetary Calvin ball.

Math is absolute. There is no manipulation. Is. Isn't.

//Don't get me started on imaginary numbers. I always felt like mathematicians were just giving up with that horseshiat.
 
2012-07-31 07:40:33 AM

Grand_Moff_Joseph: A huge part of the problem is that math isn't being taught correctly, even by the (many) good teachers out there. I spent far too much time in math classes working on the "theory", the "whys" of math, and little time on the practical application thereof.

For example: No one (and I mean NO ONE) cares "why" 2+2=4, or "why" limits and log functions work the way that they do. Why are spending half of a test writing proofs for these concepts? We should be using those tests to apply the ideas to problems, and find reality-based ways to solve them.

Also, while I understand the pervasiveness of calculators and computers today (my TI83 got me through Trig and Calc), calculators need to stay out of the classroom until at least high school. I'm not a math whiz, but I can make change in my head. When the power went out in the WalMart I worked at in College, half of the cashiers had to use their phones to calculate change amounts because they couldn't do it manually.


So you're suggesting a sliding scale?

On one hand, you don't see the need for understanding the concepts that build what you use mathematically, but on the other hand you do... for practical purposes.

I get what you're saying, but it we're left with a "well who decides where the cut-off is" situation. There would be many folks that could eloquently argue why a student of a certain track should truly understand the fundamental theorem of calculus.

Hell. I remember writing a proof that showed odd and even numbers exist in high school. Nearly 20 years later, I've never once used that lesson explicitly, but I never, ever forgot the eureka moment for solving a tricky little brainteaser. I use that every single day in my work. Sometimes a lesson is about the process and not the content.
 
2012-07-31 08:15:31 AM

doglover: Because People in power are Stupid: I was speaking about a phobia in the same context that people are math phobic.

So am I. You can't just reduce your argument's assumption to "I was assuming cases where I am correct."

Math is a symbolic language. We don't grow up speaking it. We don't need it to learn the basic skills it uses, as they are cross disciplinary. So someone who is "math phobic" is more like someone learning English as a second language than you realize.


Again, my assumption was that you were smart enough to remember what is germane to the discussion. The subject is whether or not America should continue teaching mathematics and not English as a second language and people from foreign countries that are "scared" to learn English.

My assertion is that people who are "phobic" about learning math don't belong in regular classes. They should go to "special" classes and learn with the developmentally disabled or whoever else rightfully belongs there. "Math phobia" is a refuge for people who are too lazy to make an effort and are looking for excuses for their own behavior.

It is not an excuse to remove Algebra altogether from American curriculum as the article is attesting.
 
2012-07-31 08:25:49 AM

Mad Tea Party: How do you teach about the normal distribution without algebra? Standard deviation? Even the ground-level stuff like probability distributions require the concept of area under a curve, which you really need calc to deal with properly.


I don'ty know why I'm bothering to type this since I've written it at least four times, once I believe in direct response to you. Here's the math curriculum starting in 7th grade:

Pre-Algebra>Algebra 1>Algebra 2>Geometry>Trig>Pre-Calc

That's the way it's been taught for at least 40 years, and as a result, more 3/4s of all kids lose interest in math as a subject. That's five years of masturbating numbers, and most students will never see a practical application of the knowledge. I know I didn't see a practical application of what I learned until I was a freshman in college, and even then I was using stuff that I had learned about 3-4 years before. Seeing as my school aged kids are being introduced to probability in second and third grades (along with fractions), why the f*ck wouldn't you use probability and stats to teach algebra?

So in direct answer to your question, you use statistics to prod the learning of algebra, instead of teaching algebra then five years later introducing them to stats.

Mad Tea Party: So let's water down the curriculum even more?


Actually yes. I do want to water down the curriculum for non-college bound kids.

Again, everyone needs some algebra. But your real estate agent or DMV worker will never, ever, factor a polynomial outside of algebra class. S/he would, however, use the ability to do basic probability calculations, interpret statistics, and assemble basic logic sentences every goddam day. Yet we don't bother to even introduce these topics until college - that's completely asinine.

This fetish around math mastery is damned odd. We always talk about what and how Asians teach their kids, and how we're falling behind - particularly in math, and quite frankly it's true. But it's true because they're focusing on their top decile, where we're trying to teach abstract algebra to the bottom quartile - more than half of whom suffer from mental retardation.
 
2012-07-31 08:58:58 AM
FTFA: "Toyota, for example, recently chose to locate a plant in a remote Mississippi county, even though its schools are far from stellar. It works with a nearby community college, which has tailored classes in "machine tool mathematics."

Pre-req for "machine tool mathematics"? Basic Algebra.

Journalism ought to require a basic knowledge of algebra, too.
 
2012-07-31 09:10:13 AM
upload.wikimedia.org

If you can't do algebra, you can't do math. Now shut up and finish making my latté. I have to get back to the lab and go invent your next smartphone.
 
2012-07-31 09:43:25 AM

EngineerBoy: The problem, in my opinion, is not with Algrebra, but with math education in this country, starting from grade school on. In college I had many classes in common with Education majors, and with virtual unanimity they complained about how hard it was to pass basic college math courses, and that what they taught wasn't necessary in life. Several of then went on to become math teachers, because that's what was hiring.

These people had no facility for or appreciation of mathematics, and simply acted as parrots for textbook course plans designed to have the fewest kids fail the standardized tests. Any time a kid had a conceptual problem, they simply could not help because they did not understand the theory, either. And any time a kid showed a facility for mathematics and a desire to learn more, they had nothing to give, thus potentially stifling a future mathematician.

In my opinion the solution is to make teaching a respectably paid vocation, such that it will attract people who could easily get work in the business sector, but might choose to become teachers if it didn't mean settling for a life of extraordinarily limited earning potential.


John Allen Paulos, who wrote the very insightful Innumeracy (and the funny and also insightful Humor and Mathematics) is a math teacher by vocation. In the first book, he explained how he felt that kids found math too abstract, because it's taught that way, so they don't understand or appreciate how it can be useful and interesting. To solve this, he routinely took his students on math 'field trips' around the school, where he'd have them directly apply math to solve real-life questions, such as, "How many bricks are on this face of the wall?" He wouldn't tell them the answers or how to solve the problems, but knew that someone with some algebra knowledge would instinctively set to an algebraic solution rather than try to just count all the damn bricks. He might follow up with, "How much money did the school department spend on just those bricks, if a brick weighs x and costs y per pound?" Over time, these exercises build up in kids a solid grasp of what math is in the adult world, how it's used everyday, and why it's useful to know.
 
2012-07-31 09:50:43 AM

balki1867: Lord Dimwit: In my opinion the solution is to make teaching a respectably paid vocation, such that it will attract people who could easily get work in the business sector, but might choose to become teachers if it didn't mean settling for a life of extraordinarily limited earning potential.

I had a music teacher in seventh grade who decided to lecture the class on the need for attaining a well-rounded education (just to be clear, I actually agree with the sentiment). His example was that we could compute the odds of winning the pick-4 lottery by multiplying 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24, so its 1 in 24. In summary:

1) He completely botched the math (the real odds are 1 in 10,000)
2) Based on this math, he came to the wrong conclusion (If the jackpot were anything over $24, and we used his math, we'd be buying as many lottery tickets as we could)

Even at age 12, the stupid hurt.


since we are discussing math, couldn't the (correct) odds be represented as 10!4? I'm just double checking what I learned so long ago that I never really use. :)
 
2012-07-31 09:54:30 AM

Babwa Wawa:
I don'ty know why I'm bothering to type this since I've written it at least four times, once I believe in direct response to you. Here's the math curriculum starting in 7th grade:

Pre-Algebra>Algebra 1>Algebra 2>Geometry>Trig>Pre-Calc

That's the way it's been taught for at least 40 years, and as a result, more 3/4s of all kids lose interest in math as a subject. That's five years of masturbating numbers, and most students will never see a practical application of the knowledge. I know I didn't see a practical application of what I learned until I was a freshman in college, and even then I was using stuff that I had learned about 3-4 years before. Seeing as my school aged kids are being introduced to probability in second and third grades (along with fractions), why the f*ck wouldn't you use probability and stats to teach algebra?

So in direct answer to your question, you use statistics to prod the learning of algebra, instead of teaching algebra then five years later introducing them to stats.


I think a portion of that is due to poor teaching. Most of my teachers attempted to explain how much of what they teach could be used in the real world. Obviously, not all of it (nor even most of it) will be useful for the majority of people, but what can be incredibly useful is setting up a structured thought process that can be used in solving problems on a wide range of topics.

As an example of poor teaching, I was taking Trig and asked the teacher how some of this could be applied in the real world and he couldn't come up with an example.

Really?!? Trig with no practical application?

No argument that mixing up the curriculums could be a help for some level of students, but another help is parental involvement and a greater use of things like word problems where possible. Yes, that does make the course more difficult, but it also helps cement the actual learnings.

Actually yes. I do want to water down the curriculum for non-college bound kids.

Again, everyone needs some algebra. But your real estate agent or DMV worker will never, ever, factor a polynomial outside of algebra class. S/he would, however, use the ability to do basic probability calculations, interpret statistics, and assemble basic logic sentences every goddam day. Yet we don't bother to even introduce these topics until college - that's completely asinine.

This fetish around math mastery is damned odd. We always talk about what and how Asians teach their kids, and how we're falling behind - particularly in math, and quite frankly it's true. But it's true because they're focusing on their top decile, where we're trying to teach abstract algebra to the bottom quartile - more than half of whom suffer from mental retardation.


I'm with you - there should be two, maybe three, tracks for students. One that focuses on college bound students with a strong focus on sciences. For those students, the standard listed above is fine - but it should go to full calc (at least calc one - derivatives, but maybe not integrals). For those who'll be heading to some sort of voc ed deal, it should swing over towards business and trade math. Very practical applications that are closer to their desired field. Focusing on things like balancing a budget, understanding interest and it's impact, etc. If the person is going to trade work like building or such like, then things like area, angles, etc. become very important.

The third potential track could be for college bound but non-science major, types. Folks like psychology, journalism, communications, and other party majors. It'd probably be similar to the track for smart people, but not go to calc. It should also have an "every day life" math course, because these people think it's smart to spend money on the next iteration of the iProduct so they can't be too smart.

/late to the party
 
2012-07-31 09:59:40 AM

Lagaidh: madgonad:

//Don't get me started on imaginary numbers. I always felt like mathematicians were just giving up with that horseshiat.


Complex numbers (or "imaginary numbers" in most middle school algebra books) are actually incredibly natural and useful. The fact that any real polynomial of degree n has exactly n roots (counting multiplicity) that ALL lie in the complex plane, and no smaller such set containing the reals, should be enough to convince you that they are in fact a natural construction. (i.e. the complex numbers are the algebraic closure of the real numbers.)

The way they are taught in schools is completely unmotivated and mysterious, and the fact that they even call them "imaginary numbers" makes it even more annoying.

Their most practical applications (besides differential/algebraic geometry, number theory, fluid mechanics, quantum mechanics, standard model physics, etc) would be in solving differential equations. Even when you are solving real valued (coming from REAL LIFE applications) equations, it may turn out to be useful to extend your vision to the complex numbers in order to solve it by using a Fourier transform or some simple substitution which will end up giving you complex numbers (i.e. complex eigenvalues rear there heads). You will still end up getting an actual real solutions in the end, but using these tools requires complex numbers.

Even if you only care about real-valued functions, the problem is that complex numbers will still come up. Ever wonder why the Taylor series for f(x) = 1/(1+x^2) centered at 0 only converges on an interval radius one? It has no "bad points" if you graph it on your TI-89. The reason is it has singularities at x = i, -i in the complex plane (division by zero!), a distance of one away from 0.
 
2012-07-31 10:01:10 AM

Babwa Wawa: 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!

That's applied arithmetic (multiplication).


If you want to be the person who carries the nine over to the next column on a scrap of paper, sure. But using simple algegra, you can get the exact answer in your head:

(3.00 x 3) - (0.01 x 3) = 9.00 - 0.03 = 8.97

If you don't want to be constantly punching a calculator or scratching a pad while shopping, algebra can be very handy.
 
2012-07-31 10:08:42 AM

LordOfThePings: [cdn.buzznet.com image 500x281]


A young Reagan explains his budget plan.
 
2012-07-31 10:21:21 AM

Mechdemon: balki1867: Lord Dimwit: In my opinion the solution is to make teaching a respectably paid vocation, such that it will attract people who could easily get work in the business sector, but might choose to become teachers if it didn't mean settling for a life of extraordinarily limited earning potential.

I had a music teacher in seventh grade who decided to lecture the class on the need for attaining a well-rounded education (just to be clear, I actually agree with the sentiment). His example was that we could compute the odds of winning the pick-4 lottery by multiplying 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24, so its 1 in 24. In summary:

1) He completely botched the math (the real odds are 1 in 10,000)
2) Based on this math, he came to the wrong conclusion (If the jackpot were anything over $24, and we used his math, we'd be buying as many lottery tickets as we could)

Even at age 12, the stupid hurt.

since we are discussing math, couldn't the (correct) odds be represented as 10!4? I'm just double checking what I learned so long ago that I never really use. :)


It depends on how many numbers are offered. If you pick 4 numbers from 1 to 10, it's 10*9*8*7 = 5040. But, if order doesn't matter, as is true of all lotteries I know of, then that's divided by 4*3*2*1, which gives 210 combinations. Not a lot.

But, in TX for example, you pick 6 numbers from 1 to 53 (I think it's 53). Not 1 to 10. AZ had only 6 of 42 last time I was there, much better odds (1 in 5245786) but still slim chances.
 
2012-07-31 10:21:34 AM

degenerate-afro: Sticky Hands: fark it.
the Chinese have won.

Not as long as Raptor Regan has a say in matters

[i.imgur.com image 850x478]

The communists will never succeed!


It's a lovely piece of art, so I hate to criticise, but at least to me, that looks more like Raptor Perry.
 
2012-07-31 10:21:59 AM

sigdiamond2000: I told that teacher lady the only numbers I need to know are U, S and A.


What if you have to count to potatoe?
 
2012-07-31 10:22:41 AM

ontariolightning: [admin.weathertrends360.com image 436x526]


Yes, let's compare high school test scores between countries that don't let a fair number of their students attend high school (such as Korea, or Japan [the lowest 6% of middle school students never see the inside of a high school]) with those who require high schools to educate all the school-age children. Let's ignore discuss the effect you can have on the mean of a distribution by cutting off the lower tail, and then criticize the US mathematics educational system.
 
2012-07-31 10:26:17 AM

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!


No, I didn't.

Math nerds. Jeezus.
 
2012-07-31 10:28:30 AM

ontariolightning: [admin.weathertrends360.com image 436x526]


See?

This is why it's crucial that we keep the football games in college, lest we slide even lower.
 
2012-07-31 10:31:38 AM

pciszek: rockforever: Bring back shop

The machinists I have known did algebra and trig on the fly, even if they didn't call it that. "The toolholder on this lathe reads radius rather than diameter, and it's angled at 30 degrees, so to take another 10 mils off of the diameter I have to take it in just a bit under six mils according to the dial..." (I have forgotten what the controls are called; it's been years.)

On another occasion, I brought my International Harvester Scout into a shop, and informed the mechanic that if he took in out on the highway, he needed to know that the last shop (which didn't know squat about Harvester) had installed a speedometer cable that read 85% of what it should. He asked "So, if the speedometer says 60, you're really doing 70?" I said "Yep."


It was set to knots, not mi/hr. In case it became airborne.
 
2012-07-31 10:33:34 AM

major_accuracy: If the price of sending someone to prison > price of sending someone to Princeton

Then YES we need more math to keep people out of prison.

http://www.business2community.com/government-politics/prison-vs-princ e ton-university-infographic-073142


That's exactly how I see it, too. I don't care about the emotional or ideological arguments: the numbers don't lie. It costs more to incarcerate than to educate, and we already know there's a strong correlation between education and lack of criminality.
 
2012-07-31 10:43:37 AM
most math is quite useless from what ive found and im an engineer.

nothing beyond a basic derivative or integral has really done much for me and im working in research labs!

so i can somewhat agree we teach too much math ... but then i would follow it up with that we dont teach enough application. you can bet that 90+% of the students will forget that crap when summer hits.
 
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