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Math in the Movies: Superman II

There is a joke in mathematics circles that has become well-known enough to merit its own entry on Wikipedia. This joke is referred to as the Teakettle Principle. Here’s how it goes:

A mathematician and an engineer go into the kitchen one day to make a pot of tea. Finding an empty kettle on the stove, they fill it with water, then turn on the stove and let the water boil, following the usual protocol when making tea.

The next day, the two again decide to make a pot of tea. However, upon entering the kitchen, they find that the kettle on the stove has already been filled with water! Now faced with a new problem, the engineer suggests that they simply heat the water that’s already in the kettle.

“Nonsense!” the mathematician replies. “It would be far simpler to pour the water out and replace the empty kettle on . . . → Read More: Math in the Movies: Superman II

Math in the Movies: Jurassic Park

Ah, 1993. Andrew Wiles was on the verge of proving Fermat’s Last Theorem. Late night talk show hosts poked fun at our President’s love of McDonald’s. And on June 11th, a little film known as Jurassic Park released to audiences throughout the country.

As it held the top spot for most successful movie of all time for four years (thank you, Titanic), there is no doubt this movie has secured a place in our pop culture heritage. And while it has aged in some respects – science has advanced to the point where it can genetically engineer species that went extinct millions of years ago, but a little girl is still most impressed by the fact that cars on the island come equipped with “interactive CD-ROMs,” for instance – the film still serves up a quintessential example of the 90s summer blockbuster.

If the film is not fresh in your . . . → Read More: Math in the Movies: Jurassic Park

Math on TV/Math Gets Around: Brooke Knows Best

Recently, I found myself thinking of mathematics in an unlikely set of circumstances: while watching VH1′s latest “Celebreality” show, Brooke Knows Best. I realize that an admission like this may be embarrassing, and so it is for the sake of your edification, dear reader, that I am willing to go on the record with this deliciously shameful information.

For those of you who may not know, the titular character is the daughter of Santa with Muscles star and All-American hero, Hulk Hogan. In the show, Brooke lives in an expensive looking condo in Miami, goes to the beach, and sings her own theme song. This is about as much as I know. I swear. For those of you who are curious, the following video gives a good sense of what this show is all about.

VH1 TV Shows Music Videos Celebrity Photos News & Gossip

Did you . . . → Read More: Math on TV/Math Gets Around: Brooke Knows Best

Math in the News: Math is Cool, I Swear!

As you may recall, my first post briefly discussed the California Board of Education’s mandate that every 8th grader in the state must take Algebra. My purpose here is not to discuss the ruling further, but rather to point out the response article published last month in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The article is well-researched and thoroughly written. Not only does it feature discussion of the pros and cons of such a mandate from a wide range of interviewees, but it also tries to address the question of why Algebra, and mathematics in general, is perceived so terribly by American kids and adults alike. It also attempts to paint a picture of what Algebra actually is, for those of us who fell by the wayside of mathematics long ago.

The current state of mathematics education is given quite a scathing review by the people mentioned in the article who actually . . . → Read More: Math in the News: Math is Cool, I Swear!

An Open Letter to Users of Yahoo! Answers

Dear Yahoo! Answers Users,

For every guy who has dreamed of looking like a Hoobastank concert attendee, or for every girl who has dreamed of looking like a Bratz doll, Yahoo! Answers provides you with a forum to not only construct the avatar of your dreams, but also to ask questions on a variety of topics, and get real answers from real people.

She only loved him for his soul patch.

Unfortunately, as a math educator, I feel compelled to offer criticism regarding the Mathematics section of your site. The existence of this section is not what bothers me – it is the user behavior, both of those asking questions and those answering them.

Let’s start with the askers. I’ll be blunt: please stop using the internet as your interactive cheat sheet. There are a number of users of Yahoo!’s service who have no qualms asking for answers on . . . → Read More: An Open Letter to Users of Yahoo! Answers