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Patient Problem Solving

Last year, I remarked on a TED talk from mathemagician Arthur Benjamin, who argued for the displacement of Calculus by Statistics in the hierarchy of high school mathematics. This year, TED has sponsored a talk by high school math teacher Dan Meyer, who discusses what, in his view, are the major problems with the way mathematics is currently taught to kids, and what can be done to fix things.

His opening is spot on: “I teach high school math. I sell a product to a market that doesn’t want it, but is forced by law to buy it.” He goes on to argue that the problem with math education, a problem exacerbated by most textbooks, is that it discourages what he terms patient problem solving. Problems in textbooks rarely reflect the types of problems one encounters in real life: textbook problems usually supply you with just . . . → Read More: Patient Problem Solving

Jack Doesn’t Know Jack

Late last month, HBO films premiered You Don’t Know Jack, a biopic on assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian. The casting of Al Pacino in the starring role turned out surprisingly well, and made for a film that was better than I had expected.

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However, no film is perfect, and You Don’t Know Jack has its share of faults. Unlike most films, though, one of You Don’t Know Jack’s problems falls into the realm of the mathematical.

As you may recall, Kevorkian escaped conviction for his assisted suicides a number of times. The film’s reasoning for his acquittals is a mixture of good legal representation combined with heart-wrenching testimony from the families of the deceased, who made it clear how much suffering Kevorkian’s patients endured before he helped them. Moreover, Kevorkian never administered any lethal injections himself; instead, he built mechanisms that his patients could activate themselves.

Kevorkian . . . → Read More: Jack Doesn’t Know Jack