succumbing to peer pressure

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Math is Hard!*

AWB left this for me in comments, and I've been avoiding it. She predicts it will send me into fits of righteous anger, but mostly it just makes me sad. I'll spare you the linking and reading - it's one of these gee isn't it cute that my fourth grade daughter knows more math than me? articles. Written by a (presumably) middle-aged woman. While I suppose I have to begrudgingly applaud the author's dedication to go back and hire a tutor and learn several years of math in several months, everything about the story, and the way it is told, just makes me sad. The author is very honest about how little math she knows, and includes this 'funny' passage about her husband's reaction to said lack of knowledge:

One night, my husband asked to see the packet I was working on.

He flipped the pages and asked, "This is hard for you?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Seriously?" he said, eyes widening. When I assured him it was, I realized I was looking at the face of a man staring into the evolutionary abyss. I could see he was regretting that he had allowed his DNA to be carried into the future merged with mine. Luckily, our daughter is good at math.

But the the article inevitably maintains the status quo that innumeracy, unlike illiteracy, is not only acceptable, but common, and fruit for an entertaining article in Slate. Just reinforces my desire to invent a time machine and go back and fix the way math is taught. I'm unconvinced that the Japanese method mentioned in this article (taking away the applications and just focusing on math for math's sake? who would hang in there long enough to learn anything?) is the answer, but I know whatever we've been doing to generation after generation is wrong.

In other math-related news, my hand-me-down Bitch magazine draws my attention to this t-shirt from Alloy - "I'm too pretty to do math" - which is curiously no longer available. Dad suggested I wear it in an ironic fashion, which I said I would do only if I could take a laundry marker and insert 'not' - turns out Yellow Ibis beat me to it. They also make one that says, "This is what a scientist looks like."

*my family provides this quip as the punchline to nearly any action, ever since that horrid talking Barbie made the scene years ago. we now have a new one - during the opening to Numb3rs my Dad insists on saying, "deedeedeedee math!" which I will now adopt as my 'thinking' noise whenever solving problems.


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