## Wednesday, August 23, 2006

### Modern Math

I’ve blogged about my sad experiences with modern American education on several occastions. This “joke” instantly resonated — but more as political commentary than as a joke:

Last week I purchased a burger and fries for \$3.58.

The counter girl took my \$4.00 and I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies. While looking at the screen on her register, I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.

Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s…

The Evolution of Teaching Math

1950:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for \$100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

1960:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for \$100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or \$80. What is his profit?

1970:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for \$100. His cost of production is \$80. Did he make a profit?

1980:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for \$100. His cost of production is \$80 and his profit is \$20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

1990:

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of \$20. What do you think of this way of making a living?

Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes?

2000:

An evil logger who voted for Bushitler, causing Al Gore (the people’s hero) to lose, cut down a tree and sold it for \$100 — and the only reason he did it was to make a profit! He paid \$80 for the logs. Write down how much profit the evil logger gouged, along with how hard you tried to get the right answer. Your grade will be based on how hard you tried.

2006:

Un ranchero vende una carretera de madera por \$100. El coste de su produccion era \$80. Cuantas tortillas se pueden comprar?

I learned my math in the '50s and '60s. A bridge you drive over a few years from now will be designed by people who learned their math from the '90s on.

Doesn’t that make you the least bit uncomfortable?

Me, I’m hoping that our future engineers are all immigrants from a society that has kept its respect for a solid education — some Estonians, Russians, or Chinese, for example.