1050: "Forgot Algebra"

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Randomness
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Randomness » Wed May 02, 2012 7:39 pm UTC

Dr_Revels wrote:I accompanied my fiance to a meet up with some high school friends she hadn't seen in 17 years, and this exact sentiment arose in the course of their reminiscing. She turned to me and said, "can you think of any time you have had to use algebra since high school?", but wasn't amused when I answered back, "yes, daily".

If context matters at all, my fiancee is a pediatrician and the other members of the table were a baker, a psychologist and a university administrator. I am a medical student.



A baker? The baker doesn't think they use math on a daily basis? Do they not use chemistry either? I think the main problem is these people don't really know what math [b]is.[b] And that the goal of math class is ingraining it into a person enough so they don't need paper to do the basics, including basic algebra. Any baker will have to change around values (or math) of ingredients, if they are changing the amount of liquid to dry they also have to change the amount of leavening agent (or chemistry) accordingly. I am not a good enough baker to do that automatically, or without looking up the formula for it (in relation to the chemistry part).

Though for somethings that can be explained by math I will allow that thinking of math while doing it would hamper your performance. Like in sports. Pausing to do the math of how hard to throw to get the ball to its destination takes longer than the learned muscle response of just doing it.

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zmic
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby zmic » Wed May 02, 2012 7:42 pm UTC

Arariel wrote:I don't think this is so much criticizing people who are bad at maths, but merely people who are wilfully and deliberately ignorant about maths.


no more than 10 years ago I would run into people who actually gloated that they "knew nothing about computers". But that seems a thing of the past now.

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Uzh
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Uzh » Wed May 02, 2012 7:56 pm UTC

1.) http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/That%27s-Mathematics-lyrics-Tom-Lehrer/AC7E631FD792651748256A7D0025D400

2.) Though Tom Lehrer would disagree, hearing his prefaces to "New Math", I think it's not the sin ß or something you'd need during your life. (There might be a kind of automatism that you can do a cross-multiplication without even knowing it by thinking wheter a offer is a bargain...) But I think the important think is to learn how to think strictly logical. In this way I sometimes think of math as the extreme of a social science.

Sometimes I think that the whole stuff with the different subjects in school is simply to show people: Look, there are different views to the world. There are different ways to solve problems. Choose, which one is your way. I never used my BASIC I've learned in school - they were proud to be so progressive in the mid-80s! But I still remember how a programming language uses to work when I fill in Excel sheets. And of course I love my Latin courses although Latin is only spoken in Vatican - it comes handy when I try to understand a foreign language or even my native language. Paedagogists call it transfer.

A friend of mine went to an antroposophian school and was able to dance his name. He told me that Rudolf Steiner insisted to teach the telephone in school. That was in the 20ies, when telephones were something new. But some of the Rudolf-Steiner-Schools didn't understand, why he insisted in it. They teach the telephone and don't translate it to today's time, which is a pity.

Georg
"The problem is that humans have these darn biological limitations and if it gets too far from 293 K they'll start complaining, or die." http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=106000#p3483385

Randomness
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Randomness » Wed May 02, 2012 8:09 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:
the thought process in education seems to be "ok, we've got this interesting subject.... how can we suck all the life out of it and condition young people to hate it"

I recently saw a proposed second level curriculum for computer science/programming and the only conclusion I can draw from it is that teachers nowdays are the least competent members of society without a clue about anything.
Either that or it was their intention to screw it up.(hint, where any self respecting college course will have intro to programming at the start this pile of crap didn't touch it till more than half way through, long after they've all lost any context and lost interest)

Why have teachers become some incompetent at teaching?I mean across the board, incompetent.
and by "become" I mean since from long before my birth.

They even manage to waste kids time with things which they have absolutely no use for, on the ornidanry level maths course here (the minimum math everyone has to do to get into college) they include imaginary numbers. I mean really. few people use algebra, nobody doing ordinary level math is going to be using imaginary numbers for anything in normal life. It's not just useless, it's spectacularly useless, it's so useless to normal people that you have to work hard to think of anything less useful to them.


I believe you contradicted yourself. The dull quadratic formula or even theta (much more complex) are the boring you might actually use in your life bits. Imaginary numbers are the cool bits. While you are advocating for teachers to make math fun you are also advocating for them to take away the fun bits, make up your mind.

daftrhetoric
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby daftrhetoric » Wed May 02, 2012 8:31 pm UTC

This issue is of that rare class that make me feel alienated and disappointed by Randall. The observational premise is itself valid, but it's such a banal and importune perspective to take on so essential and dysfunctional a state of fact. The additional commentary, that perverse profession of ethos, compels me to the even more egregious sense that Randall is just using the strip as an outlet for his frustration today. Perhaps it's superlatively perverse that I come to xkcd expecting to witness a prophet's miracles, and allow myself such grave disappointment when all I discover is a puddle of melancholy tears with little provision of answer or inspiration.

There is no essential element of life. I know I'm professing nothing novel, but much of what exists does not live, and we oughtn't forget it. Income and taxes are not life's first facts, that they seem presently inescapable is no matter of the truth of intelligent life nor even of society.

SkunkWerks
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby SkunkWerks » Wed May 02, 2012 11:05 pm UTC

Can't say I ever was "proud" of not using mat/algebra later on in life. At the same time I think it equally strange that people should count it among "the fun parts in life".

Algebra was never "fun" for me.

This is in part due to a learning disorder I have which tends to severely disrupt procedural operations. I change a sign in mid-stream, or drop a step, and I don't know I did it until many steps later- when I turn up with the wrong answer. Given enough time, I could totally find out what I did wrong, but then you have the fact that- through most of school- math tests were usually conducted in timed environments.

Algebra was not fun for me. Quite the contrary, it was always a terrible experience which exploited all my worst weaknesses- some my fault, some not. Rote memory isn't a very strong point for most ADD folks either, but compound that with the bass-ackwards way math is generally taught in school and you have a robotic, bloodless discipline which- for all you see of it through anything up to high school and even beyond- definitely seems like it exists only for its own sake.

Teacher: Okay class, here's the formula for today, and here are the steps to follow to solve it. Now attempt these different examples and write your answers down.

Me: Not sure I'm clear on why it's done this way, Teach. Think you could give me some examples? It would help me understand the process better.

Teacher: I dunno why. Just do what you're told.

^About every interaction I ever had with a math teacher up through till college when I met up with "Topics in Modern Math"- which (HOLY MOSES!) actually taught APPLIED math: number systems, alternate number systems, math theory, and even (~gasp!~) current events in math!

All of a sudden learning the subject seemed a whole hell of a lot easier... while at the same time making me regret I couldn't jump in a time machine and beat every math teacher I'd ever had to that point with the book of notes I'd been taking in lectures.


Yeah, math was almost never "one of the fun parts of life" for me. I'm neither proud, not ashamed of this.

Netreker0
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Netreker0 » Wed May 02, 2012 11:18 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:
Steve K wrote:So if you read a, b, or c into the comic -- if you think Randall is judging people who aren't good at math, or if you think "Miss Lenhart" failed in her putative teaching role, I believe you are bringing some of your own issues to bear. Please deal with them in a more appropriate place.


I was going to give this post a well thought out reply, but then I read that. Wow. And I thought I was an asshole here sometimes.


I commend you on having more self-awareness than many internet folks.

I also give steve k that elusive "Well thought out post" that you so capriciously withheld. Yea, it was a bit snippy towards the end, but I don't think he was wrong. Regarding the first half of the bolded part, what are you objecting to? Yes, in some contexts saying something to the effect of "What you're complaining about reflects more about your issues than the object of your complaint" can be a bit condescending, but in this context, I think it's more spot on than anything else at least with regard to c and probably a. As he acknowledged, assuming b follows naturally from the situation, but I think that most people who believe c are drawing more from their own experiences than from the content of the comic. As for the last part of the bold, I can see it from both sides. On one hand, we all to bring something of our own experiences when interpreting the comic--if we didn't these forums wouldn't be worth reading. However, there is a line between drawing inferences from the comic and interpreting it through your own lens, and simply attributing opinions not really expressed in the comic in order to give yourself a straw man to vent at, publically, and I think that when you cross that line, you tend to hurt the discussion far more than you contribute to it.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Netreker0 » Wed May 02, 2012 11:25 pm UTC

justalurkr wrote:First: I will freely admit to choosing my college major based on how little math would be involved, with special emphasis on not needing to know calculus. I was (and am still) in no way proud of that.

Second: Those who are proud of never having been asked to solve for X either haven't been in the workforce for very long or aren't doing anything with much earning power or (most likely) wouldn't recognize a request to solve for X if it piddled on their ankle, because if they are doing something with some earning power, they're solving for X all the time, even when there are no numbers involved.


That's becoming less and less true nowadays, because we're exporting the fairly well-paying solve-for-x based jobs to countries that value math education and are willing to do the work for less. What we are left with consequently has a higher percentage of the following: high paying non-solve-for-x jobs (attorneys, actors, oilman, etc) where physical presence in the country, facility with the language, familiarity with native customs, etc give a huge advantage over outsiders, and low paying jobs. Among low paying jobs, the low paying solve-for-x jobs (think cashier) also become a smaller proportion as technology begins to compensate: many more transactions are cashless now, and many of those that are not rely on automatic change-makers to do the calculatory work.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Netreker0 » Wed May 02, 2012 11:32 pm UTC

tlmorgen wrote:One thing I felt hasn't been made clear so far is the difference between "arithmetic" and "algebra".

Elementary algebra, what it seems the character is referring to, should not be confused with arithmetic. Just because the two share the same operations on numbers does not make their spirit the same.


I think that in many areas the difference really isn't clear. Basic algebraic problems can be solved entirely through simple arithmetic operations without the conscious use of variables, but beyond the simplest of problems, an intuitive understanding of algebra is what helps you set up the problem in the first place.

Down623
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Down623 » Wed May 02, 2012 11:44 pm UTC

I was an English major, and was shocked daily by not only how little my peers knew about basic math, but how proud they were of it. They'd almost brag about how bad they were at math, and a lot of them looked at me funny when I told them that I took a math class as an elective.

Meanwhile, when it came up as we read some Lewis Carroll, I had to explain some of his math jokes to the class (and a few to the teacher).

SkunkWerks
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby SkunkWerks » Thu May 03, 2012 12:16 am UTC

Then there's the classic left-brained to right-brained argument of:

Righty: Well, I never use algebra in my day to day life.

Lefty: Have you ever applied formal logic to solve a problem?

Righty: Oh, sure!

Lefty: Then you do use algebra in your day-to-day life.

Righty: Sure, but I liked it better when it was called "Independent Living".


I've had people try to tell me that: but math is in everything!

It's probably true. But if I'd been forced to learn it the same way they made me learn math and algebra, I'd have done everything in my power in school to skip that too.

I mean, if all the "fun parts of life" (which i guess includes Algebra, Literature, Economics, Philosophy and so on) is truly only optional, then what I find really strange is people who feel incessantly compelled to assert their superiority to other people based on how they choose to spend their spare time versus how other people spend it.

Da Vinci and Michaelangelo used to argue about Painting versus Sculpture- two guys arguing about the superiority of different variations on the same discipline. Six centuries later, has either proved superior to the other? Or do people still engage in both forms of art? More poignantly do we respect either Da Vinci or Michaelangelo any less? Or do we think of both these guys as "Great Masters" among artists?


...Besides, they're both wrong. Giotto caused the Black Plague! Try following that act, suckers!

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Nic
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Nic » Thu May 03, 2012 12:31 am UTC

daftrhetoric wrote:The observational premise is itself valid, but it's such a banal and importune perspective to take on so essential and dysfunctional a state of fact.

daftrhetoric wrote:. . . that perverse profession of ethos, compels me to the even more egregious sense . . .


Dude, just because they call them 'five-dollar words', it doesn't imply that you get money for using them.

SkunkWerks
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby SkunkWerks » Thu May 03, 2012 12:46 am UTC

Nic wrote:
daftrhetoric wrote:The observational premise is itself valid, but it's such a banal and importune perspective to take on so essential and dysfunctional a state of fact.

daftrhetoric wrote:. . . that perverse profession of ethos, compels me to the even more egregious sense . . .


Dude, just because they call them 'five-dollar words', it doesn't imply that you get money for using them.



I always called them "50-cent words".

Inflation?

Arariel
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Arariel » Thu May 03, 2012 12:48 am UTC

Nic wrote:
daftrhetoric wrote:The observational premise is itself valid, but it's such a banal and importune perspective to take on so essential and dysfunctional a state of fact.

daftrhetoric wrote:. . . that perverse profession of ethos, compels me to the even more egregious sense . . .


Dude, just because they call them 'five-dollar words', it doesn't imply that you get money for using them.


Obviously daftrhetoric posits that the mathematicians in these fora are endowed with diction so banal, it would be entirely inconceivable for them to cognise terminology as variegated as his. Cheerio, my good fellow!

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sarysa
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby sarysa » Thu May 03, 2012 1:44 am UTC

I'm going to dissent, and I like math. I feel that we're going the wrong way with education, trying to make everyone jacks of all trades. I happen to be good at math. I find history compelling even though school made it a chore. I'm not big into languages but I'll eventually need to master a second for my personal interests. Geography's a meh, I'm more interested in the history behind the constantly changing arbitrary borders. Reading fiction...dear god why did they make me do it. I almost flunked reading courses because I couldn't stomach fiction...but I love nonfiction.

People don't need to be cultured jacks of all trades when careers are becoming increasingly complex...a great many demanding a lifetime of focus and specialization. Other cultures' version of "jack of all trades, master of none" is "jack of all trades, master of poverty"...and I see that ring true even here...brilliant people doing retail jobs because they lack focus. It shouldn't be 12.5% for each of the eight subjects...it should start general and branch out based on the kid's strengths. Specialization should not wait until college.

greymatters
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby greymatters » Thu May 03, 2012 1:54 am UTC

I like people with poor math skills.

They're so useful.

Arariel
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Arariel » Thu May 03, 2012 2:02 am UTC

sarysa wrote:I'm going to dissent, and I like math. I feel that we're going the wrong way with education, trying to make everyone jacks of all trades. I happen to be good at math. I find history compelling even though school made it a chore. I'm not big into languages but I'll eventually need to master a second for my personal interests. Geography's a meh, I'm more interested in the history behind the constantly changing arbitrary borders. Reading fiction...dear god why did they make me do it. I almost flunked reading courses because I couldn't stomach fiction...but I love nonfiction.

People don't need to be cultured jacks of all trades when careers are becoming increasingly complex...a great many demanding a lifetime of focus and specialization. Other cultures' version of "jack of all trades, master of none" is "jack of all trades, master of poverty"...and I see that ring true even here...brilliant people doing retail jobs because they lack focus. It shouldn't be 12.5% for each of the eight subjects...it should start general and branch out based on the kid's strengths. Specialization should not wait until college.


I've actually always believed this. But until I no longer have to take English Lit, Spanish, Economics, and Theory of Knowledge (philosophy) (not to mention having to take a bio class next year), leaving me only with maths and physics, I'm entirely content with everyone else being forced to take maths.

rcox1
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby rcox1 » Thu May 03, 2012 2:33 am UTC

babble wrote:This comic is a troll, right? Like, a massive straw man troll on the whole world? Which is cool, just checking. Because then although I really really want to spend time defending people who aren't good at maths, or didn't enjoy maths, or have jobs that don't involve very much (if any) maths, but at the same time do understand that they use arithmetic when going to the shops - if I spend time doing that then I'm feeding the troll, aren't I.

I speak French most days in my job; I use Latin and Greek quite a lot; spend more time using skills learned in history and literature subjects at school. I'm dyscalcular (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyscalculia) - coping with numbers is really difficult for me. Despite that I admire people who are good at maths, even though I literally can't (not won't) understand much more than very basic stuff. I see the value of it, even. I understand that skills learnt in school are used in life, even though we might forget that from time to time.

And so yeah, I'm a little bit tired of being characterised as some kind of anti-maths snob who disparages it because she doesn't understand it. Just like many scientists must be fed up with being characterised as philistines who don't appreciate literature or music - often by people who say things like 'unsuitable for liberal arts majors'. This comic really does come across as an unholy mess of snobbery. All people who aren't good at maths are snobs who disparage those who are AND this comic is too clever for the former?

I know xkcd is aimed at maths and science people. that's cool. but it's also self-designated as being about three things that aren't maths and only one thing that is, plus, everyone in the bloody world is always linking to it/forwarding it/discussing it so I think it's appropriate to feel butthurt when it trolls people.

oops. looks like I fed the troll.


It amazes me how many otherwise literate people are proud they are not able to do math.

It amazing me how many allegedly educated people are proud that they cannot write minimally comprehensive prose.

It amazes me how many people cannot see the beauty in at least knowing a little bit about other human languages.

It amazes me how many technical people are hang onto their conviction that they cannot draw.

An educated person should be able to solve problems and express themselves using a number of different tools. The problem we have is that people are pigeon holed because they are not very good at certain forms of expresion. This pigeon holing them snow balls into a situation where the person does not have the ability to solve certain problems, or express themselves in some critical manner, at all.

I never realized how unique and wonderful my upbringing was. There was nothing that was 'bad knowledge'. It was as incomprehensible that we would not be able to solve all out math problems as it was that we would not be able to able to write a essay as it was that we would not be able to draw as it was that we would not be able to at least speak a little of a few languages. My mother, at an advanced age, learned to use a computer. It was simply not accepted that there were things we could not do.

Could we do them well. Maybe not. But we did not go around being proud that we were ignorant of basic skills either.

chenille
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby chenille » Thu May 03, 2012 3:10 am UTC

One use of algebra is in statistics. I'm not a big fan of the subject, but I can see the world is starting to choke on how many people can make influential decisions without any basic appreciation of it. Jobs are not the only reason it's good for people to understand things.

CasualSax
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby CasualSax » Thu May 03, 2012 4:12 am UTC

I get that math is important, but we should not ignore that we could definitely improve the basic "core" subjects we teach in primary schools.

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whateveries
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby whateveries » Thu May 03, 2012 4:28 am UTC

SirMustapha wrote:
buddy431 wrote:I use to think like this too. And then I became a scientist, and I have to write lab notebooks. Legibly. I've had to re-teach myself to write. Many of my lab-mates are in a similar situation. One writes in all capital letters, as it's the only way you can read his hand writing. Another switched to longhand, because his printing had deteriorated so far. Writing, just like algebra, is not useful to everyone, but it is very useful to a certain, not insignificant portion of the population. That's why everyone learns it, just like everyone is required to learn some math. I used to dislike my fourth grade teacher for enforcing good penmanship, but now I realize that she's probably the only reason anyone can understand anything I write.


I agree that good writing is definitely an important skill to learn. But how is a kid going to be convinced of that? The teacher may be convinced; the future adult may be convinced; but if the kid is not convinced, hardly anything good will come out of the learning process.

During all of my school time, writing in cursive was by far and large my biggest weakness (well, arguably, not playing football was my biggest weakness, but I could get past that more easily). As far as I remember, my calligraphy always sucked, but some years later I discovered that, in my first years in school, my calligraphy was beautiful. But I only spent a few months on the first grade, and skipped to second grade, in the middle of the class, because I could already read and write on that age. From that moment on, my calligraphy got worse and worse. To this day, I simply can't write in cursive, and this haunted me for years. Only much later did I stumble upon the solution: writing in block. Problem solved. I only write in cursive to sign my name. Other than that, I write exclusively in block, and it does fine.

But teachers here are underpaid, undervalued and undertrained. I think nobody ever had the idea to suggest me to not write in cursive, or they were way too stuck to tradition. But suffice to say, I went through a hell of a torment for many years without necessity, and I'm not an exception; in this sense, I am the rule.


I quickly discovered I had the worst handwriting, it was quickly discovered becuase I noticed that all of my teachers would tell me 'you have the worst handwriting' after a while it became an admixture of cursive and block , in the same way it became an admixture of capitals and lowercase, in no particular order (which oddly still happens when I type) I think perhaps I unconciously had determined the characters most likely to be legible from each of my inbuilt 'fonts' and used them.
In about grade 10 I was gifted with a Tandy COCO II and a dotmatrix printer and managed to scrounge up some *ahem* freeware wordprocessing program from a pen pal who lived in the states, anyway, at this time there was little to no regular usage of computers by students and thus no specific rules about handing in assignments that had been printed rather than handwritten, and frankly I think most of my teachers were pleased to not have to crawl through four or five pages of my tortured scrawl to determine whether or not I had the required concepts in order to fail me with justification.

Of course there were problems when an exam had a written portion, but largely, by then the importance of cursive was ignored and the failing was almost a prerequisite, probably due to rambling facetiousness and an inability to repress a joke at the expense of answering the actual question.
I was suprised to learn upon exiting school that I had in fact learned a hell of a lot of History english and maths and even cooking, and even a little german (still useful today!) depsite my exit results.
so with that realisation, I repeated the last year and walked out with a much higher exit result, perhaps suprising this time the teachers who thougt of me as some kind of random moron, well, actually, they werent all wrong on that one.

And yes, solving for X is something I do with an odd regularity, in my job, when I'm driving in the shops, during sex, no. not so much during sex. unless it's calculating ..uh, nevermind.
it's fine.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Fat Tony » Thu May 03, 2012 5:27 am UTC

The caption doesn't make any sense. I was required to take a math class every semester from kindergarten until my last year of high school, while I was forced into a mere two years of foreign language (plus one more semester in college) and have never once even been *offered* any sort of cooking class. I don't see how the concepts are at all analogous.
Yes, math is useful to everybody in some way or another, but a required twelve years of it even for people who will never have to solve a more difficult equation than 2x-4=0 seems a little excessive to me.

[Edit] Handwriting would be nice, but elementary schools don't teach (or force) you to write legibly; just in cursive (which in my case [and in those of most people who I have ever seen use cursive {ie adults}] was much much worse than my regular handwriting). I know I'm going to use math, but I would quite enjoy bragging to my elementary school teachers about how I have never once used cursive other than to write that one freakin' sentence on the SAT (which I still didn't even use cursive for; I just drew lines connecting all the letters after I had already written them normally). Teaching cursive is fine. Requiring all our assignments to be written in cursive for three years is not fine.
Last edited by Fat Tony on Thu May 03, 2012 5:37 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu May 03, 2012 5:33 am UTC

Netreker0 wrote:
tlmorgen wrote:One thing I felt hasn't been made clear so far is the difference between "arithmetic" and "algebra".

Elementary algebra, what it seems the character is referring to, should not be confused with arithmetic. Just because the two share the same operations on numbers does not make their spirit the same.


I think that in many areas the difference really isn't clear. Basic algebraic problems can be solved entirely through simple arithmetic operations without the conscious use of variables, but beyond the simplest of problems, an intuitive understanding of algebra is what helps you set up the problem in the first place.

I look at the difference as precisely the same as that between grammar and logic: one tells you how to construct statements and what they mean, and thus how to tell if they are true; the other tells you how different statements relate to each other, and thus how to transform some (collection of) statements into another (collection of) statements.

And I think the greatest thing we could do with our children's curriculum is to teach propositional logic at the same time as elementary algebra, just as we teach arithmetic alongside grammar. And to cap it all off, complete the trivium and its mathematical analogue: teach rhetoric and statistics together, to give people the skills to make sound persuasive arguments with figures to back them, and to avoid being persuaded by unsound arguments and their faulty figures.

These things are the foundation of being able to do any kind of reasoned thinking at all, and so are the bare minimum that kids should reach adulthood knowing. There's a reason why the three non-mathematical subjects here are the root of our word "trivial".

I like to call these six subjects -- the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) together with its mathematical analogue (arithmetic, algebra, and statistics) -- the "sexium". We can pitch it as "the other sex ed". ;)
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Azkyroth
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Azkyroth » Thu May 03, 2012 6:12 am UTC

babble wrote:And so yeah, I'm a little bit tired of being characterised as some kind of anti-maths snob who disparages it because she doesn't understand it.


Fascinating.

Did you consider the possibility that if the "sort of person" the comic mocks doesn't fit you very well, that it might not be aimed at you?

Azkyroth
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Azkyroth » Thu May 03, 2012 6:28 am UTC

jgh wrote:Can't do maths? I've got a wonderful deal for you, potatoes, 19p a pound, three pounds, for you, special offer, a quid. Ok, tell you what, 90p, and that's cutting me hand off.

Don't dare compain, you insisted you can't do maths.

Like those potatoes? I've got this wonderful mortgage offer just here...


I assume p are pennies. What's a quid?

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby babble » Thu May 03, 2012 6:36 am UTC

Azkyroth wrote:
Fascinating.

Did you consider the possibility that if the "sort of person" the comic mocks doesn't fit you very well, that it might not be aimed at you?


I did, yes, that's why I wrote the bit immediately below it:

I know xkcd is aimed at maths and science people. that's cool. but it's also self-designated as being about three things that aren't maths and only one thing that is, plus, everyone in the bloody world is always linking to it/forwarding it/discussing it so I think it's appropriate to feel butthurt when it trolls people.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Eternal Density » Thu May 03, 2012 7:04 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I like to call these six subjects -- the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) together with its mathematical analogue (arithmetic, algebra, and statistics) -- the "sexium". We can pitch it as "the other sex ed". ;)

And students choose one or the other, right? ;)
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Azkyroth » Thu May 03, 2012 7:06 am UTC

grobus wrote:LET'S ALL LAUGH AT PEOPLE WHO DON'T ENJOY SCHOOL - THEY ARE DUMB LOL


More like let's laugh at the people who laugh at the people who DO enjoy school or the idea that anyone COULD enjoy school.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Azkyroth » Thu May 03, 2012 7:14 am UTC

Sprocket wrote:[
The only one of these things I really do is cook, and I don't know if it's actually a thing people can forget how to do...it's pretty simple. Follow a recipe if you need to. Maybe the kind of mind that just takes inherent pleasure in doing math is the kind of brain that can forget how cooking works? But I learned how easy it is to make Nachos from Randall.
I never learned how to play an instrument really, and I know a few words of Spanish here and there.


The issues with cooking are 1) the equipment costs, 2) the assumption that you're already intimately familiar with the requisite vocabulary, necessitating googling quite a bit of jargon, 3) recipes that are laid out in an illogical fashion and need to be reread several times to avoid the "oh, crap, I was supposed to do this first!" issue, but mainly 4) the fact that people assume it's this arcane thing where normal rules of logic and inference no longer apply and only the Chosen One can hope to make sense of it.

Which is also the biggest problem math and computers have...

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Azkyroth » Thu May 03, 2012 7:34 am UTC

SirMustapha wrote:But teachers here are underpaid, undervalued and undertrained. I think nobody ever had the idea to suggest me to not write in cursive, or they were way too stuck to tradition. But suffice to say, I went through a hell of a torment for many years without necessity, and I'm not an exception; in this sense, I am the rule.


I wasn't aware anyone wrote in cursive past elementary school.

On the other hand, I might see if I can pick it up again, since my dysgraphia symptoms tend to result in letters flowing into each other and angles getting rounded off when I'm trying to write fast. I wish there was some way to cure the idea that poor handwriting = laziness, though, because that's gone so far as to ruin certain *board games* for me.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby mric » Thu May 03, 2012 7:38 am UTC

rcox1 wrote:It amazes me how many technical people are hang onto their conviction that they cannot draw.

I wonder why you are amazed that many people, technical or otherwise, are convinced they can not draw. I can't draw (except in a slightly shaky stick figure way) - I can't draw a straight line longer than six or seven cm, I can't draw a circle of any size, and I certainly can't draw a face that you would recognise as one individual or another. I also can't tap dance, plaster a wall, speak Russian or play poker. Why would you be amazed by any of those facts?

I suppose that if I applied myself for a couple of months at any of these I could do them to a certain level. My best guess is that I would end up rather good at speaking Russian and playing poker, and rather weak at plastering a wall and drawing. I have a good track record with intellectual and social achievements, and a poor one with activities requiring fine motor skills.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Azkyroth » Thu May 03, 2012 7:42 am UTC

daftrhetoric wrote:This issue is of that rare class that make me feel alienated and disappointed by Randall. The observational premise is itself valid, but it's such a banal and importune perspective to take on so essential and dysfunctional a state of fact. The additional commentary, that perverse profession of ethos, compels me to the even more egregious sense that Randall is just using the strip as an outlet for his frustration today. Perhaps it's superlatively perverse that I come to xkcd expecting to witness a prophet's miracles, and allow myself such grave disappointment when all I discover is a puddle of melancholy tears with little provision of answer or inspiration.

There is no essential element of life. I know I'm professing nothing novel, but much of what exists does not live, and we oughtn't forget it. Income and taxes are not life's first facts, that they seem presently inescapable is no matter of the truth of intelligent life nor even of society.


I know every word in this post and I have no clue what your point is. I gather you're unhappy about something?

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby mric » Thu May 03, 2012 8:27 am UTC

Azkyroth wrote:
jgh wrote:Can't do maths? I've got a wonderful deal for you, potatoes, 19p a pound, three pounds, for you, special offer, a quid. Ok, tell you what, 90p, and that's cutting me hand off.

Don't dare compain, you insisted you can't do maths.

Like those potatoes? I've got this wonderful mortgage offer just here...


I assume p are pennies. What's a quid?

It's really simple. A quid is a pound, so you really are in luck. He is offering you three pounds in exchange for just one pound. You don't need much maths to work out that is a good deal.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby HungryHobo » Thu May 03, 2012 8:30 am UTC

Randomness wrote:A baker? The baker doesn't think they use math on a daily basis? Do they not use chemistry either? I think the main problem is these people don't really know what math is.


Algebra, not just "math".

Basic division and multiplication will sort out most such problems and baking was done successfully for hundreds of years by people who couldn't read or write and didn't even know what algebra was.
It's a skill, much like driving. People who are used to the recepies and how things should look/feel/smell can get the right amounts without math or even a scales.

something people here don't seem to get: just because you can apply math to a problem doesn't mean you have to or even that it's the best way to handle a problem. often it's a terrible way to approach a problem. Try to apply math to driving and you'll die, taking a few innocent people with you but it is possible to apply it in abstract.

Randomness wrote:I believe you contradicted yourself. The dull quadratic formula or even theta (much more complex) are the boring you might actually use in your life bits. Imaginary numbers are the cool bits. While you are advocating for teachers to make math fun you are also advocating for them to take away the fun bits, make up your mind.


Imaginary number and such are no more cool and no less dull than anything else as they get taught in schools.
It's teachers who think like you who are the problem.
They are the terrible teachers.
The lower level stuff can be fine and interesting too.

And few people use quadratic formula in everyday life except in the most stupidly contrived examples that people have put forward here like driving where they really don't. or professional settings. This is one thing I don't get, I like math but i don't feel the urge to make up contrived, unrealistic examples. It would be like someone who likes tennis turning around and saying: really you use tennis all the time in everyday life, you swing your arm when you wave at someone right? well you swing your arm when you hit the ball in tennis so really people use tennis all the time!!!


SirMustapha wrote:But teachers here are underpaid, undervalued and undertrained. I think nobody ever had the idea to suggest me to not write in cursive, or they were way too stuck to tradition. But suffice to say, I went through a hell of a torment for many years without necessity, and I'm not an exception; in this sense, I am the rule.


You left out one: with many teachers the primary problem isn't that they're underpaid, undervalued or undertrained. the primary problem is that they're simply incompetent. Perhaps if teaching was better paid it might attract more competent people but right now it doesn't seem to attract the brightest pennies in the ash tray.
Last edited by HungryHobo on Thu May 03, 2012 9:55 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby SkunkWerks » Thu May 03, 2012 9:00 am UTC

sarysa wrote:I'm going to dissent, and I like math. I feel that we're going the wrong way with education, trying to make everyone jacks of all trades.


Except: that really isn't what we're doing.

Rather, we're doing the opposite (been doing it for quite some time), and it shows.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby drazen » Thu May 03, 2012 9:42 am UTC

I think it's worth than that. Curiosity shouldn't be taught, because humans are curious by default. I think bad teachers/education systems are actually breaking something, rather than failing to give birth to it. They sure broke it for me, science seemed to be the exact opposite of fun. But I kinda changed my mind; I feel like I've learned more about maths (and I definitely learned more about physics) since I've stopped studying it at school.


As a fan of John Taylor Gatto's work, that is effectively one of his main points: the school system is designed to stifle curiosity, instill obedience, and churn out cookie-cutter individuals for a mass-production economy.

It wasn't quite as effective on me because I enjoy winning and grew up in a competitive school environment. But once I got to 5th grade and had a science teacher who favored "cooperative learning" (which I only ever experienced as being paired with losers who decide to let the smart, dedicated students do all the work for them)... learning stopped being fun. Especially science.

It took until I had a good physics teacher, 7 years later, for me to have any interest in science at all, rather than disciplines like pure mathematics. Now I love reading about science (typically physics and pscyhology) independently. But for a long time, I couldn't be bothered, because school made it a miserable experience -- not so much by not relating it to my life (as geology is way less useful day to day than math), but by making it about something it wasn't.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby StClair » Thu May 03, 2012 9:51 am UTC

The thing about the alt text is, math isn't fun.
I learned it. I'll do it. But for me, it's not a fun activity. It's a bothersome chore.

EDIT:
It's really simple. A quid is a pound, so you really are in luck. He is offering you three pounds in exchange for just one pound. You don't need much maths to work out that is a good deal.

The irony about this (and the post it's replying to) is that it's as much about varying usages and definitions of the word "pound" - ie, language - as it is about maths. If you kept it all in the same units, the swindle would be obvious. But no, you've got to bring those slippery words into pure numbers...
Last edited by StClair on Thu May 03, 2012 9:58 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby HungryHobo » Thu May 03, 2012 9:56 am UTC

It can be enjoyable in the same way that playing music can but you'd never guess it if your only contact with it was through schools.
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Zamfir » Thu May 03, 2012 11:45 am UTC

drazen wrote:As a fan of John Taylor Gatto's work, that is effectively one of his main points: the school system is designed to stifle curiosity, instill obedience, and churn out cookie-cutter individuals for a mass-production economy.

Perhps that's true. Then again, mass-production economies with obligatory schooling have a rather good track record. On a wide range of metrics they might be the best places to be born in, ever.

If you think the school system instills obedient cookie-cutter individuals, those things might well be critical elements of the succes.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Rotherian » Thu May 03, 2012 12:32 pm UTC

mric wrote:
Azkyroth wrote:
jgh wrote:Can't do maths? I've got a wonderful deal for you, potatoes, 19p a pound, three pounds, for you, special offer, a quid. Ok, tell you what, 90p, and that's cutting me hand off.

Don't dare compain, you insisted you can't do maths.

Like those potatoes? I've got this wonderful mortgage offer just here...


I assume p are pennies. What's a quid?

It's really simple. A quid is a pound, so you really are in luck. He is offering you three pounds in exchange for just one pound. You don't need much maths to work out that is a good deal.


To clarify, a quid is a British pound sterling ( £1 ). 19p is 19 pence. 1p = (0.01 * £1). The pounds of potatoes are the weight measure pound (abbreviated lb for singular, lbs for plural). IOW, jgh is offering to sell 3 lbs of potatoes, which normally would amount to £0.57, for £1. Then jgh lowers the price to £0.90, which is still a rip-off. Then jgh indicates that it was a joke by using a Discworld reference.

Hopefully that clears things up.
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