1050: "Forgot Algebra"

This forum is for the individual discussion thread that goes with each new comic.

Moderators: Moderators General, Prelates, Magistrates

Draco18s
Posts: 87
Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:50 am UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Draco18s » Wed May 02, 2012 3:15 pm UTC

I "solve for X" pretty frequently. And enjoy doing it too.

Waaaay faster if a program uses the Similar Triangles theory and doing a "solve for X" ratio equivalency than doing Math.atan() and then Math.cos() and Math.sin().

Still need a square-root sometimes, but sometimes you can even avoid that (because a2+b2 = c2 and you know what c2 is already and need to compare c to some other value d, instead of performing a square root, just square d!).

J L wrote:For example, I was proud I never read a single book from the reading list of my last years of school. Today I got a Ph.D. in literature. The trick was stop telling me what I should read, and what I should like.


Agreed. I even read one story in my high school literature book because I wanted to, and ended up doing so months before it had been assigned (The Smallest Dragonboy). Conversely, I had to be whipped in order to keep reading Witch of Blackbird Pond. HATED that book so much.

I still read as an adult. In fact, I finished Dog and Dragon the other day, and Crucible of Gold a couple weeks ago. I've got World War Z and The Adamantine Palace on my "in" stack (not excited to be reading either, but I did ask for them).

Polarity
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed May 02, 2012 3:13 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Polarity » Wed May 02, 2012 3:20 pm UTC

J. Curwen wrote:Seems like Miss Lenhart's children have had a hard time at school too: http://xkcd.com/416/
HungryHobo wrote:that "math" has no beauty, that math has no real complexitry. it's just join the dots drudgery.

I agree, the "fun part" (e.g. fractals) starts after what you learn in school.


After what you learn in high school (secondary school, I suppose, for Europeans), anyways. To be fair, fractals (at least, the calculation-based stuff like Julia sets) require a good knowledge of complex numbers, which is definitely NOT taught in any high school I've ever heard of. Sadly. College math has all kinds of fun things like that.


I find the notion of "not having done algebra for 20 years" preposterous. As noted, algebra pops up all over in daily life - any time you do ANYTHING above basic arithmetic (and a decent chunk of the time you're doing basic arithmetic), you've done some algebra.

The other thing advanced math is good for is teaching how to apply rigorous analysis to a situation (from all the proofs you work through). I suppose doing higher level science work does this as well (reaching a hypothesis from what you know, though this has more inductive elements than mathematical proofs), but you can't get far in sciences without the ability to do stuff above algebra.

HungryHobo
Posts: 1708
Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:01 am UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby HungryHobo » Wed May 02, 2012 3:20 pm UTC

wisnij wrote:
grobus wrote:LET'S ALL LAUGH AT PEOPLE WHO DON'T ENJOY SCHOOL ARE SMUG ABOUT THEIR OWN IGNORANCE - THEY ARE DUMB LOL

FTFY

You realise the only utter failure of a person in that comic is the teacher right?
Not the students.

Draco18s wrote:Waaaay faster if a program uses the Similar Triangles theory and doing a "solve for X" ratio equivalency than doing Math.atan() and then Math.cos() and Math.sin().


Also waaay more likely to run into integer overflows.
years back I got an assignment with some example code from a professor which squared values to get distances. it gave garbage on any large values. The ironic thing was that he also happened to be covering automatic testing that week and had included automatic tests.... which suffered from the same error so they considered it correct.

unless you're working in something like python or haskel with no upper bounds for integers Math.atan() and then Math.cos() and Math.sin() are safer.
Last edited by HungryHobo on Wed May 02, 2012 4:01 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
Give a man a fish, he owes you one fish. Teach a man to fish, you give up your monopoly on fisheries.

jpers36
Posts: 231
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2010 2:47 pm UTC
Location: The 3-manifold described by Red and Blue

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby jpers36 » Wed May 02, 2012 3:21 pm UTC

Magnanimous wrote:...and people wouldn't lose their shit when a sports player does something statistically unlikely.


I understand math and I still enjoy when unlikely things happen in sports. It's OK to value story over statistics in entertainment.

Jamaican Castle
Posts: 151
Joined: Fri Nov 30, 2007 9:10 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Jamaican Castle » Wed May 02, 2012 3:21 pm UTC

The real question is, did the kids ever have to use their raptor awareness math?

jpers36
Posts: 231
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2010 2:47 pm UTC
Location: The 3-manifold described by Red and Blue

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby jpers36 » Wed May 02, 2012 3:22 pm 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.


My inability to solve this is more an issue of language than math :P .

User avatar
AvatarIII
Posts: 2098
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:28 pm UTC
Location: W.Sussex, UK

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby AvatarIII » Wed May 02, 2012 3:32 pm UTC

jpers36 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.


My inability to solve this is more an issue of language than math :P .


now imagine it quickly with a cockney accent :D

Роберт
Posts: 4285
Joined: Wed May 14, 2008 1:56 am UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Роберт » Wed May 02, 2012 3:35 pm UTC

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

Let's all laugh at people who type in all caps and don't use proper punctuation. They are dumb. :lol:
The Great Hippo wrote:[T]he way we treat suspected terrorists genuinely terrifies me.

User avatar
iChef
Posts: 343
Joined: Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:33 pm UTC
Location: About 5 cm. south of the ring finger, USA.

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby iChef » Wed May 02, 2012 3:42 pm UTC

I didn't realize I had such a complex job. As a chef I've had to retain almost all the math I learned in school. Just working on a new bread recipe involves getting the correct ratio of ingredients, calculating how much yeast will induce how much rise in a portion of dough at what temperature (which increases exponentially). Any decent chef needs to have command of English, Spanish and French. I also still play music but that while it isn't part of the job it helps.

It amazes me that there are really that many people with this attitude. Even in prison and in the homeless shelter I ran into people who were trying to learn some sort of skill or another.
Those whom God loves, he must make beautiful, and a beautiful character must, in some way, suffer.
-Tailsteak author of the Webcomics 1/0 and Leftover Soup

User avatar
Sir Real
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:44 am UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Sir Real » Wed May 02, 2012 3:48 pm UTC

If you are ignorant, and know you are ignorant, you can do one of two things:

1) Learn something.
2) Convince yourself that you're proud of the ignorance.

Surprisingly, the second is apparently less work for most people.

User avatar
Sprocket
Seymour
Posts: 5951
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:04 pm UTC
Location: impaled on Beck's boney hips.
Contact:

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Sprocket » Wed May 02, 2012 3:59 pm UTC

Sir Real wrote:If you are ignorant, and know you are ignorant, you can do one of two things:
1) Learn something.
2) Convince yourself that you're proud of the ignorance.
Surprisingly, the second is apparently less work for most people.

I had two majors in college, one of which was English, and I will say I am kind of proud that I didn't finish a lot of the books I was supposed to read, because I got As on my papers anyway. I'm not proud of the ignorance or the fact that I've never been a fast enough reader to keep up with novel-length assignments in college, that's just me, but I am proud that I've got good enough writing skills and inference skills and familiarity with the stories of society from watching lots of PBS and other things as a child, that none of my teachers ever knew I didn't finish the novels. When I was a senior in high school I talked to my Junior year teacher, and mentioned I hadn't finished the novel I wrote my final paper for Junior year on. She made a noise and plugged her ears and gave me an awkward smirk. I still need to finish Catcher in the Rye some day. Maybe this afternoon. Ever since moving to Boston and reading novels for pure pleasure on the T, I've actually finally learned how to read at a decent rate.

While I've certainly never been proud of forgetting math, it is just sort of a thing that happens.

Music, cooking, or even speaking a foreign language are things that have sort of an innate pleasure that causes people to do them in their daily life when they're not working, if they allow themselves to get good enough at them to really enjoy doing them.
Cooking reaps the benefit of eating delicious food, and making delicious food that others appreciate. Making music mean listening to the music you're making, the pleasure of performing for others, and just enjoying being an artsy bad ass. Finding people to speak a foreign language with has a social aspect, and a practical aspect in some ways, but can just also be a lot of fun and offers new ways of expressing yourself. One is much less likely to find this sort of natural pleasure in doing math in ones non-working hours. It takes a very specific type of individual to find that sort of innate pleasure in something that doesn't have the sort of finished product or social results that the other mentioned skills do.

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.
Last edited by Sprocket on Wed May 02, 2012 4:15 pm UTC, edited 4 times in total.
"She’s a free spirit, a wind-rider, she’s at one with nature, and walks with the kodama eidolons”
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Zohar wrote: Down with the hipster binary! It's a SPECTRUM!

Texan_Engineer
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed May 02, 2012 4:03 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Texan_Engineer » Wed May 02, 2012 4:07 pm UTC

When i was finishing Calculus in highschool, i didnt remember alot of algebra at the end of the course... :oops:

Steve K
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:01 am UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Steve K » Wed May 02, 2012 4:10 pm UTC

Okay, I see a lot of assumptions being made about this comic. Let's break it down to what's actually given:

1. "Proud girl" once told Miss Lenhart that she'd never use algebra.
2. In twenty years, she hasn't (or doesn't recognize where she has.)
3. She's proud enough of (2) to yell it at Miss Lenhart when she sees her.
4. Randall expresses surprise at her pride and implies that such pride is generally not expressed regarding other subjects.

From this, I would say that this comic is about pride in ignorance, and how its application appears skewed towards subjects like algebra.

What is not given:
a. "Proud girl" is/was good/bad at algebra -- we simply don't know this.
b. Miss Lenhart taught "Proud girl" algebra -- while this may seem like a reasonable assumption, I've heard similar conversations between students and counselors, and even between students and adults who do not even work in schools. So, again, there's nothing in the comic that implies this.
c. Randall expresses disdain for people who do not know/use algebra. That's not in here at all. Indeed, the title text implies a lack of interest in whether any given individual is good or uses any particular subject.

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.

User avatar
eran_rathan
Mostly Wrong
Posts: 1840
Joined: Fri Apr 09, 2010 2:36 pm UTC
Location: in your ceiling, judging you

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby eran_rathan » Wed May 02, 2012 4:11 pm UTC

Sprocket wrote:One is much less likely to find this sort of natural pleasure in doing math in ones non-working hours.



Speak for yourself - calculus makes me wicked horny.

"Hey, wanna go get integral?"

"I'd like to be the area under her curves, if you know what I mean."
"Does this smell like chloroform to you?"
"Google tells me you are not unique. You are, however, wrong."
nɒʜƚɒɿ_nɒɿɘ

User avatar
SirMustapha
Posts: 1302
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:07 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby SirMustapha » Wed May 02, 2012 4:18 pm UTC

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.

User avatar
Diadem
Posts: 5654
Joined: Wed Jun 11, 2008 11:03 am UTC
Location: The Netherlands

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Diadem » Wed May 02, 2012 4:23 pm UTC

barasawa wrote:Math 10 (...)
Math TEN

You do realize, right, that stressing a concept that 90% of the world will never have heard of, will not make your post any more insightful for that 90% of the world?
It's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I have an independent mind, you are an eccentric, he is round the twist
- Bernard Woolley in Yes, Prime Minister

Esoto
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:21 am UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Esoto » Wed May 02, 2012 4:32 pm UTC

[deleted]
Last edited by Esoto on Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:33 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.

justalurkr
Posts: 22
Joined: Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:12 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby justalurkr » Wed May 02, 2012 4:44 pm UTC

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.

User avatar
Widmerpool
Three for the price of one!
Posts: 37
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:57 am UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Widmerpool » Wed May 02, 2012 4:45 pm UTC

Marlayna wrote:And as for the "you use math every day" argument - no we don't... except for elementary school stuff. Unless your chosen profession involves math, when was the last time you had to take a logarithm, or solve a system of linear equations, or use a trigonometric identity?

I do, most days (today: discovering that a certain quantity is, unexpectedly, the hyperbolic cosine of an apparently unrelated quantity). My chosen profession is psychotherapist, but I do math for pleasure.

Why is "what you do in you professional life" supposed to be the touchstone? I live for more than my work, and I'm delighted that high school equipped me for all sorts of non-functional things. I did English lit. in high school, I never use it in my professional life, but reading gives me more pleasure than it would have done otherwise. I did history in high school, I never use it in my professional life, but it contextualises the decisions I make as a citizen. I failed to 'get' chemistry in high school, and that saddens me. I would never dream of saying to my old chemistry teacher "hah! I've never had to titrate anything since 1977!" What kind of dick would glory in being ignorant like that?
El temps es breu; nemini parco.

luciandipeso
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed May 02, 2012 4:47 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby luciandipeso » Wed May 02, 2012 4:50 pm UTC

My guess is people's pride comes from being forced to learn math and being told how incredibly important it was to master, say, geometry. Unlike cooking, music, or speaking a foreign language, math is made a core requirement, when perhaps (after a certain level) it shouldn't be.

radams
Posts: 90
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 12:49 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby radams » Wed May 02, 2012 4:59 pm UTC

Dear 14-year-old me,

Here is a practical application of math.

In a few years, when girls find out you can add up the costs of their purchases and calculate sales tax in your head on the fly, they will want to take you clothes shopping with them. This will be a very good thing.

Yours,

33-year-old you.

User avatar
Widmerpool
Three for the price of one!
Posts: 37
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:57 am UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Widmerpool » Wed May 02, 2012 5:06 pm UTC

Polarity wrote:To be fair, fractals (at least, the calculation-based stuff like Julia sets) require a good knowledge of complex numbers, which is definitely NOT taught in any high school I've ever heard of. Sadly. College math has all kinds of fun things like that.

The British A-Level (age 16-18) "Further Mathematics" syllabus includes a fair knowledge of complex numbers - see http://www.cie.org.uk/docs/dynamic/51893.pdf pages 8-10.
El temps es breu; nemini parco.

cream wobbly
Posts: 170
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:07 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby cream wobbly » Wed May 02, 2012 5:26 pm UTC

jschwartzbeck wrote:looks like randall also noticed jimmy kimmel's joke at the white house the other day. i wonder where society would be if pop culture actually embraced things like science and math.


Mainland Europe (i.e., not including the annoying bit at the top left where the crappy food comes from).

User avatar
Sprocket
Seymour
Posts: 5951
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:04 pm UTC
Location: impaled on Beck's boney hips.
Contact:

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Sprocket » Wed May 02, 2012 5:28 pm UTC

I'm glad we give everyone the opportunity to fall in love with various things, and keep giving them that opportunity. I wish I still had it as easily as I did in high school. I wish as an adult I could just take high school math again for free just like a teenager does so I can regain those skills without having to pay a ton of money.
"She’s a free spirit, a wind-rider, she’s at one with nature, and walks with the kodama eidolons”
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Zohar wrote: Down with the hipster binary! It's a SPECTRUM!

User avatar
Diadem
Posts: 5654
Joined: Wed Jun 11, 2008 11:03 am UTC
Location: The Netherlands

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Diadem » Wed May 02, 2012 5:30 pm UTC

cream wobbly wrote:
jschwartzbeck wrote:looks like randall also noticed jimmy kimmel's joke at the white house the other day. i wonder where society would be if pop culture actually embraced things like science and math.


Mainland Europe (i.e., not including the annoying bit at the top left where the crappy food comes from).

Iceland? What have they ever done to you?
It's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I have an independent mind, you are an eccentric, he is round the twist
- Bernard Woolley in Yes, Prime Minister

Роберт
Posts: 4285
Joined: Wed May 14, 2008 1:56 am UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Роберт » Wed May 02, 2012 5:40 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote: There are way too many subtleties in this case to reduce it to such a petty strawman argument such as this comic. And that's unfortunate, because I agree with Randall in several levels here.

Honestly, some of the posts on here have proved that Randall's point isn't that much of a strawman.
The Great Hippo wrote:[T]he way we treat suspected terrorists genuinely terrifies me.

SimonMoon5
Posts: 25
Joined: Thu Feb 02, 2012 4:00 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby SimonMoon5 » Wed May 02, 2012 5:48 pm UTC

As someone who teaches math at a college level but often has to teach remedial classes to students (meaning teaching college students math classes that they were expected to learn in high school or earlier), I often am distressed by the students that think that they don't need to do arithmetic in their head because they can use their calculator. And when they use their calculator to try to work quick and easy problems, it takes them ten minutes to do a problem that might take someone else ten seconds. (I saw someone spending ten minutes trying to answer a question reading "What is one fifth of 30?") Using a calculator is a crutch. Or to put it another way:

Imagine a perfectly healthy able-bodied person who doesn't like walking. Instead, he decides that he will ride in a wheelchair. And, after all, there's no NEED to walk if you have a wheelchair, right? And sometimes you can even do things faster (going down hill, for example). And so he considers himself to have mastered walking as much as he needs to do so; it's not like actual walking is ever needed in real life.

And because he never walks anywhere, his leg muscles atrophy. He quickly finds that he couldn't walk to save his life. But that's okay because he can use a wheelchair. He doesn't understand why his coach sighs so deeply every time he passes by the guy in the wheelchair.

And then he finds that some places are not wheelchair accessible. But that's okay, he doesn't need to go to those places anyway (those grapes were probably sour anyway). You can hire a professional if you need help going to those places.

And then, he decides to get a better (physical) education. And so he signs up for a class in Running. After all, he's mastered "walking" by being in a wheelchair. And he quickly discovers that he can't run as fast as the other students; his wheelchair doesn't go as fast as someone running at top speed. In fact, he's so slow that he's going to fail Running. His coach suggests that he try not using the wheelchair. But it's too late. His leg muscles have atrophied to the point that he can never walk without months of therapy. There's no way he's going to pass Running since he can't walk. And that's a problem because Running is a prereq for all the later classes he wants to take (like Baseball or Basketball). He can't progress at all. And it's all because he chose to never learn to walk... or because his coach gave him a passing grade in Walking when really he could only do it with the help of a mechanical device; he himself was unable to perform these tasks.

That's how I feel about a lot of my students. I've had a student who couldn't multiply 7 by 10 in her head. She needed a calculator. I've had a student who couldn't subtract 2 minus 0. I've had a student who didn't know what 7 times 3 was, without the use of a calculator. And these *college* students want to learn Running when they can't Walk. Being able to do simple arithmetic without a calculator is crucial to being successful in later math classes. It's this ability to do simple math that builds up one's mathematical intuition (oh, of course, 346 is divisible by 2, because the last digit is even) because you realize how math problems work after being able to do math problems. And, yes, there's unfortunate drudgery involved in learning your times tables, but gosh, that's pretty early in your mathematical career. By the time you get to college, it should be no harder than remembering your alphabet. And surely, people wouldn't complain that learning the alphabet is too much to expect of someone, too boring and soulless?

So, what I'm saying is:

(1) There's a huge problem that students are allowed to use calculators instead of their own brains. It's as impossible to teach someone to do algebra when they can't do arithmetic as it is impossible to teach someone to read Shakespeare (much less appreciate it) if they can't read and don't know the alphabet.

(2) But that problem arises before I get the students. By the time I see them, it's too late. They've already crippled themselves by using calculators to do their thinking for them. And so, if they are asked to find seven times five, and they push the wrong buttons, they will have no idea that they've gotten the wrong answer. If they accidentally push 8 times 5 to get 40, they won't realize that that can't be the answer to 7 times 5 because 40 is even. They don't have any mathematical intuition.

(3) That Lament is nice and idealistic, but problematic as well. It's all well and good to say, "Let's not teach the boring part of math, only the fun part," but really, someone who can't do the boring part will have no chance to be truly successful at the fun part. There's a certain sense of logic that's built through formalism that really can't be learned without formal definitions, as unfortunate as they may be. And, yes, giving students only "perform these steps" problems to solve is unfortunate. But a student who can't even perform the prescribed steps, someone who can't think inside the box, they have no chance of being able to do fun stuff and think outside the box. Which isn't to say, you can't show the reasons "why" things are they way they are. I often spend a lot of time explaining why we're doing what we're doing. But the attitude I get from a lot of students is "Just show us what we're supposed to do," which I assume they inherited from previous math teachers.

(4) Learning math is often more about the journey than the destination. The goal (for people who won't use these *specific* skills of solving quadratic equations later) is often simply to show that you can use logical processes to solve problems (after someone has specifically shown you exactly how to solve this problem). Ideally, we'd do this without the qualifier, letting people solve problems that they haven't seen before. But if they can't do the former, they'll never be able to do the latter. You don't want to learn math? Fine, you don't want to be a person who can solve problems. Good thing that you never have problems in your life. Like all the rest of us, your life is perfect.

User avatar
buddy431
Posts: 446
Joined: Mon Dec 06, 2010 5:21 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby buddy431 » Wed May 02, 2012 5:50 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:
BlitzGirl wrote: like learning to write legibly: a basic skill that you need to get by


I had the most vile bitch of a teacher who was obsessed with this. I developed a stutter the year I had that witch of a teacher. My writing got worse the more I stressed over it.

she can burn in fucking hell, it's been 2 years since I've had any need whatsoever to pick up a pen.

But despite the realities of modern life: ie that this is no longer an important skill( anything you need to write by hand which anyone else absolutely has to be able to read is most likely to be typed and if you must use a pen it's better written in block than cursive) you can be sure there's thousands of teachers making the lives of kids in their classes that little bit more unpleasant for the sake of it for no good reason other than tradition.

PS: fucking fountain pens, nobody but pretentious showoffs use them yet they requried us to use them rather than infinitly superior ball point pens.

Actual life skill: fast, accurate typing
What they taught:fountain pen use

Do teachers live in some sort of pre WW1 time warp where nothing newer is worth attention?


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.
Gellert1984 wrote:Also, bomb president CIA al qaeda JFK twin towers jupiter moon martians [s]emtex.

cream wobbly
Posts: 170
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:07 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby cream wobbly » Wed May 02, 2012 5:52 pm UTC

Marlayna wrote:Why am I supposed to disagree with the student who's complaining about being forced to learn something she never intended to use?

And as for the "you use math every day" argument - no we don't... except for elementary school stuff. Unless your chosen profession involves math, when was the last time you had to take a logarithm, or solve a system of linear equations, or use a trigonometric identity?

(And of course, cooking is a necessary skill. You have to eat, don't you?)

One of the problems we have here is defining what skills I learnt in school I'll use in application to a particular task when we consider that usage of a skill enhances it further, even if only tangentially used; plus those skills a built upon by learning after leaving school. If we take the school-learnt skills S and imagine that direct usage of those skills adds U, indirect usage I, and post-school learning P, then when I apply my current level of skill C to a task, then I am only applying S level of skill, i.e. C-(U+I+P), of my current level of skill. We can further analyse this by the inference that S gradually erodes over time ("use it or lose it"), yet U, I and P increase incrementally with each application. We know that experience is more valued than book-learnt skill, too and thus can posit that the losses in S : δS are less than the sum of the gains in U, I and P : Σ(δU+δI+δP).

What was your question again?

cream wobbly
Posts: 170
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:07 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby cream wobbly » Wed May 02, 2012 6:00 pm UTC

Widmerpool wrote:
Polarity wrote:To be fair, fractals (at least, the calculation-based stuff like Julia sets) require a good knowledge of complex numbers, which is definitely NOT taught in any high school I've ever heard of. Sadly. College math has all kinds of fun things like that.

The British A-Level (age 16-18) "Further Mathematics" syllabus includes a fair knowledge of complex numbers - see http://www.cie.org.uk/docs/dynamic/51893.pdf pages 8-10.

Physics too, iirc.

I took an electronics course which used complex maths, but most of the others had left school at 16 and it was primarily a Mechanical Engineering course, so we didn't get very far and the exam was set with accordingly low expectations.

User avatar
SirMustapha
Posts: 1302
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:07 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby SirMustapha » Wed May 02, 2012 6:00 pm UTC

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.

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5371
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed May 02, 2012 6:24 pm UTC

As others have already said in this thread, understanding math is more important for knowing what problem you need to solve than it is to solving the problem. Especially in this day of computers, which can do all the calculations for you... so long as you can tell them what you need calculated.

How many miles will you travel in one hour at 80 miles per hour? This spectacular failure is the kind of thing that math education should prevent: M miles in H hours = M miles / H hours = M/H miles/hour = M/H miles per hour. It's less important that you be able to divide M by H (you can use a calculator for that if it's hard), and more important that you just realize the question is "what is M divided by H?". If you don't even realize that, your calculator will do you no good.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

cream wobbly
Posts: 170
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:07 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby cream wobbly » Wed May 02, 2012 6:30 pm UTC

And then cookery classes. Mrs. Drury's classes were turning out to be a massive failure due to her making daft mistakes in the recipes and informing her favourites (i.e. not boys) as she got around to them of the corrections. So it was up to my Mother to teach me. And she did. But it was my chemistry and biology classes that taught me how to come up with my own recipes.

justalurkr
Posts: 22
Joined: Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:12 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby justalurkr » Wed May 02, 2012 6:32 pm UTC

FruitbatNT wrote:It sounds like the kind of argument made by managers who always want to hire any College grad, when a degree isn't applicable or required, because it shows "they know how to learn and commit to something". Even though all it shows is that your parents had money, and you had 4-6 years to put real life on hold for an epic saga of sequels to your Senior year of High School.


Turns out to be frighteningly easy to separate "they know how to learn" from their "parents had money" if the interviewing manager learned how to learn. As one of four college educated hiring managers who all left school with differing degrees and similar attitudes toward their educations (we had a math, poli sci, international relations and business administration major on the team,) we hired far more high school graduates than BAs or BSs for a network support job that nominally "required" a Bachelors and "preferred" a BS. All but three of them are still employed and one of the high school grads has been promoted while working on his BA in marketing (the relevance of which to network support has me puzzled, but hey! it's a degree! and he had already passed our common sense tests.)

People who learned how to learn in high school are so underrated in the USofA as to be considered mythical. The ones we hired were fortunate to have had the mix of interviewing managers they did, as math-boy did the quantitative reasoning for "taking a risk" on "just" a high school grad, while business admin woman gave poli sci and me the correct words to craft into the written justifications that were near poetry in their artistry.

I think the biggest loss to never-solved-for-X-since girl in this comic is a likely bias against valuing the input of any mathy people in her circle because if she sucked at it and hasn't needed it since, what good is it? Except of course for figuring out how many years it's been since anyone asked her to do it. :roll:

Wlerin
Posts: 28
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:16 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Wlerin » Wed May 02, 2012 6:46 pm UTC

Funny... I solve for x on a daily basis.

User avatar
flicky1991
Like in Cinderella?
Posts: 775
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2011 3:36 pm UTC
Location: London

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby flicky1991 » Wed May 02, 2012 6:48 pm UTC

It was only with this strip that I noticed the repeated use of the name "Lenhart": http://tinyurl.com/6mn9s2c

One of them isn't even associated with school. Maybe he knows someone called Lenhart?
any pronouns
----
Forum Games Discord
(tell me if link doesn't work)

User avatar
cellocgw
Posts: 2043
Joined: Sat Jun 21, 2008 7:40 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby cellocgw » Wed May 02, 2012 6:53 pm UTC

Sprocket wrote:I'm glad we give everyone the opportunity to fall in love with various things, and keep giving them that opportunity. I wish I still had it as easily as I did in high school. I wish as an adult I could just take high school math again for free just like a teenager does so I can regain those skills without having to pay a ton of money.


Well, in all seriousness, you almost certainly could get permission from your local high school to audit a course, if you could get over the embarassment of sitting in a class full of adolescent brats. Similarly, if you are anywhere near a college, you should be able to audit courses there as well.
https://app.box.com/witthoftresume
Former OTTer
Vote cellocgw for President 2020. #ScienceintheWhiteHouse http://cellocgw.wordpress.com
"The Planck length is 3.81779e-33 picas." -- keithl
" Earth weighs almost exactly π milliJupiters" -- what-if #146, note 7

User avatar
eran_rathan
Mostly Wrong
Posts: 1840
Joined: Fri Apr 09, 2010 2:36 pm UTC
Location: in your ceiling, judging you

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby eran_rathan » Wed May 02, 2012 7:04 pm UTC

justalurkr wrote:People who learned how to learn in high school are so underrated in the USofA as to be considered mythical. The ones we hired were fortunate to have had the mix of interviewing managers they did, as math-boy did the quantitative reasoning for "taking a risk" on "just" a high school grad, while business admin woman gave poli sci and me the correct words to craft into the written justifications that were near poetry in their artistry.


It largely depends on where you went to high school, but yes. I daily thank the gods that I went to a high school where learning how to learn (and communicate!) efficiently was about 60% of the curriculum. Not to mention, having a year-long Senior Portfolio Project as opposed to finals is brilliant. I wish more schools did this.

http://www.coebrownacademy.com/ <= shameless plug for my high school.
"Does this smell like chloroform to you?"
"Google tells me you are not unique. You are, however, wrong."
nɒʜƚɒɿ_nɒɿɘ

Cervisiae Amatorem
Posts: 57
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 5:47 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Cervisiae Amatorem » Wed May 02, 2012 7:09 pm UTC

http://www.fredoneverything.net/Enstupidation.shtml

Is it possible that Randall reads Fred?

carolineee
Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2011 6:26 pm UTC

Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby carolineee » Wed May 02, 2012 7:36 pm UTC

I so hate it when people are proud of saying "oh, I was never good at math" or "oh, I hated math in school" or "math is so difficult". They do it all the time, too, and on TV. I sometimes think the problem wouldn't be half so big if the celebrities would just stop trying to be cute by not knowing math.

But I just read Lockhards Lament and there are only two possible cases:
1. I seriously lucked out on all my math teachers, including the one in the USA, and all other math teachers teach the moron stuff he describes, and all the celebrities have a good reason for hating math.
2. Math teachers (in Germany) are better than Lockhard knows.

I graduated in math a couple of years ago and I know the curriculum for highschool math teachers quite well. At my university, aspiring math teachers had to do proofs from day one. But then, this was one of the best universities for math in the country.
Moreover, my math teachers in middle & high school never just gave the formulas but explained where they came from. Sure, they didn't usually expect us to proof anything, but they gave us reasons for everything. Yes, we pracitced the application of formulas and techniques quite a bit, but not as excessively as Lockhard says. We still followed the curriculum and learned lots of stuff that most of us will probably not need again, but it was not just senseless following of instructions. I was convinced from day 1 of middle school: "Math is easy, you just have to understand the concept and never memorize anything." And so I never memorized anything except the names of the arguments of a calculation (like divident over divisor, together it's a quotient).
I once forgot the formula for quadratic equations (because I never made an effort to memorize it), but I remembered something of how we had derived it and just worked it out again by myself. I'd guess that a third of my class could have done the same. Btw, my mathteacher in California was excellent as well, and she did all the proofs with us when we had a really tight schedule with AP Calculus AB and BC in one year.

After all this reasoning for case 2, I still don't have a proof, and I seriously fear that case 1 might be right.

Aunt Edith says: It also annoys me to no end when I say "I study computer science." and I get "Oh, can you fix my computer?" and when I say "I have a degree in math." I get "Uh, that's difficult, hm?".
Last edited by carolineee on Wed May 02, 2012 7:41 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.


Return to “Individual XKCD Comic Threads”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 96 guests