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Restructuring the Math Pyramid?

A friend recently shared with me the following video from TED (see below). In it, mathematician (or, in this case, mathemagician) Arthur Benjamin gives a brief argument for eliminating calculus as the top of the “mathematical pyramid” in high school education, and replacing it probability and statistics. The main reason for this shift is that unless you are planning to have a career in a technical field, it’s unlikely you’ll find a use for calculus in your everyday life, but an understanding of statistics can benefit you no matter what you do. For example, it can help you to build an intuition about day to day decision making when risk and uncertainty are involved. Here’s the video (it’s short, only a couple of minutes):

A noble goal, to be sure, and it’s certainly a solution that wouldn’t cost a whole lot. There is an argument to be made for such . . . → Read More: Restructuring the Math Pyramid?

Math in the Movies: Revolutionary Road

This past week I watched Revolutionary Road, the Oscar nominated 2008 film directed by Sam Mendes. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as a highly dysfunctional couple named the Wheelers, who live in 1950s suburban Connecticut. For those of you who may not have seen this feel-good picture, here’s a trailer:

The trailer doesn’t address the question of what this film has to do with mathematics. The answer lies in the character of John Giving, a “mathematician” played in the film by Michael Shannon (who turned in an Oscar-nominated performance).

We first hear of John Giving from his mother, who informs Mrs. Wheeler that her son has a brilliant mind, as evidenced by his PhD in mathematics, but that he has been institutionalized, and his doctors have suggested that it would be good for him to go out and make some friends. This introduction did not bode well . . . → Read More: Math in the Movies: Revolutionary Road

Math Gets Around: On Birthdays and Trading Cards

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of Math Goes Pop! I started on somewhat of a whim after reading an article about compulsory Algebra I education for all California 8th graders (although what with our finances down the toilet, who knows what the current status is here). When I started writing I wasn’t sure there was enough content out there to sustain a blog with this one’s focus. Once I started digging, though, I found that the rabbit hole went quite deep, and so here I am a year later with plenty left to talk about (the recent obsession with pointless math holidays certainly has helped with my output). Given the date, it seems fitting to begin by mentioning the birthday problem. This is a standard problem given in any introductory probability course, but many people find the result counter intuitive at first.

The birthday problem asks a simple question: . . . → Read More: Math Gets Around: On Birthdays and Trading Cards

USA Today, you are also on my list

It bothered me when USA Today, in an article celebrating “math holidays” centered on the numerology of certain dates, linked to a post I had written about how these holidays are stupid, without even mentioning my contrary opinion. However, I was willing to let it slide, since I was able to say that I was linked in an article from USA Today. Unfortunately, an article posted today is just too much. USA Today, you have officially made it onto my list.

The headline for the article really speaks for itself: “Rare time/date alignment could mean opportunities.” This refers to the fact that in the wee hours of the morning today, it was 4:05:06 on the date 07/08/09.

Money quote:

Although the alignment may not mean anything specific, it could be a good day to do something for yourself and others, said Betsy Carlson, a Palm Springs tarot card reader . . . → Read More: USA Today, you are also on my list

Ron Gordon, you are on my list

Not this again. I’ve now discovered that the mastermind behind these so-called math “holidays” is a teacher named Ron Gordon. Not only was he the one to spearhead the Odd Day initiative 2 months ago, but he’s gone so far as to double dip and call today Odd Day as well, citing the fact that standard date notation for most of the world is DD/MM/YY, rather than MM/DD/YY.

Thanks for double dipping, Mr. Gordon, so that I can read these pointless articles yet again. Mr. Gordon has even set up a web page and a contest, with cash prizes for those who can celebrate Odd Day the most enthusiastically. Needless to say, I don’t think I will be the recipient of any such prize.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, Mr. Gordon. I’m just sayin’.

Decimal Point Fail, Ctd

I apologize for my silence over the past few weeks – I have been out of the country learning math and eating pancakes. While I get back into the swing of things, I’ve got a couple of points to mention that relate to earlier posts regarding our collective inability to correctly use the decimal point.

The first is a picture from a flyer advertising maid service. Here’s the ad (sent in to me by a dedicated foot soldier in the army that is my readership, a.k.a. my mother):

Names and phone numbers have been cropped out to protect the innocent. But in a case such as this, are there really any innocents? Although we’ve seen decimal point errors on signs before, this one is arguably the most egregious of all. Presumably the intended price is $100 – if that’s the case, then not only is the decimal point . . . → Read More: Decimal Point Fail, Ctd