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Commodify your Mathematics?

Here’s an interesting article about Tom Farber, a high school Calculus teacher from San Diego who is fighting tough economic times and cutbacks in education spending in a rather novel way – he’s selling ad space on math tests.

The goal here certainly doesn’t seem to be the development of a second income. Many teachers report having to spend money out of their own pockets for school supplies – in this case, Mr. Farber is using the money to help cover the copying costs associated with making tests and practice exams to help students prepare for the APs. His intentions certainly seem benevolent, but are his actions as innocent?

It seems like the advertising is fairly non-intrusive. There are no graphics, and the ads run on the bottom of the page. The fact that a good chunk of the ad space was bought by parents who wanted to run . . . → Read More: Commodify your Mathematics?

Math in the News: Maybe the Sky Isn’t Falling, After All

Even though we’d like to accuse our math teachers of being more or less incompetent, there is at least one indication that math education in this country is making some progress. In particular, the results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study shows American students have gained 11 points over their average performance in 1995. A comparison of US scores, along with an article describing the findings, can be read here.

With an international average of 500, American 4th and 8th grade students scored a respectable 529, on par with the Netherlands, Lithuania, Germany, and Denmark. As might be expected, however, we’ve still got a significant way to go when it comes to competing with other countries. Hong Kong made the top of the list, with a score of 607.

Of course, this data by itself doesn’t do much to explain what factors may be driving our improvement. . . . → Read More: Math in the News: Maybe the Sky Isn’t Falling, After All

Math on TV: Look Around You

With the weekend close upon us, no doubt many of you are looking forward to a reprieve from the work week. The more popular among you may even have some engagements lined up. Even for those of you with “friends” or “hobbies,” however, there always comes a point when the evening begins to come to a close.

Suppose it’s late and you’re looking for a good time. Temptation runs rampant in the midnight hour of a Saturday night, especially for those of us in the fast-paced world of graduate school. But before you open that bottle, or pick up the phone to talk to live singles in your area, let me take the opportunity to inform you of a new way to spend your time during the late night wind-down: starting this weekend, you will be able to relive your childhood through the nostalgia-inducing satire that is Look Around You.

. . . → Read More: Math on TV: Look Around You

Mariah Carey Is not a Mathematician

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but it has come to my attention that Mariah Carey is not, in fact, a mathematician. Moreover, I’m fairly certain she is not a physicist, either.

The evidence is fairly compelling. According to this article from, the famous crooner misappropriated Einstein’s famous mass energy equivalence formula E = mc2: In interviews to promote the record, the singer’s eleventh studio release, Carey told reporters she re-interpreted the equation to stand for “emancipation equals Mariah Carey times two.”

Forgetting for a moment the question of what it means for Mariah Carey to be one half of emancipation, there is the arguably more important issue of her not understanding the difference between mc2 and mc x 2. Granted, Mariah Carey didn’t get this far based on her math skills, but by botching what many consider to be the most famous equation in . . . → Read More: Mariah Carey Is not a Mathematician