1050: "Forgot Algebra"

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justalurkr
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby justalurkr » Thu May 03, 2012 3:31 pm UTC

Rereading the comic this morning, I realized that the artist left out the only high school teacher I would ever sneer at: the sophomore year English teacher who gave me an F on my explication of TS Eliot's poem with the line about measuring your life in coffee spoons.

Dear Mr I Can't Remember Your Name:
Had I actually learned anything from you about the explication of poetry, I would have forgotten it right after getting As on every other portion of your allegedly advanced placement farce of a class and no one has ever asked me to explicate a poem again ever. IN YOUR FACE.
Very truly yours,
(my name here.)

It became interesting to me that any form of own-language arts is left off the list of high school teachers that people are proud to be able to IN YOUR FACE later in life. For those whose poetry of the soul is prosaic, any study of poetry in English classes had to be way more annoying than algebra.

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Widmerpool
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Widmerpool » Thu May 03, 2012 4:06 pm 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?

A hundred pennies (the same relationship as between cents and dollars). "Quid" is the colloquial term for a pound sterling in the UK.
So the costermonger quoted is offering 57c worth of potatoes for 90c.
El temps es breu; nemini parco.

CatOfGrey
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby CatOfGrey » Thu May 03, 2012 4:08 pm UTC

ECK138 wrote:Student: "I hate story problems."
Teacher: "Life is just a bunch of story problems."


I consulted on a legal case recently. It was about four weeks of research, and a really big Excel spreadsheet.

The answer to my word problem: $45 - $89 million.

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sarysa
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby sarysa » Thu May 03, 2012 4:30 pm UTC

SkunkWerks wrote:
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.


How is this not what we're doing? Of all the subjects I learned in elementary school, high school, and hell...even college...I've only used about maybe 13% of them throughout my career. That 13% may have occupied 15%-20% of my total class time, only thanks to high school electives (PASCAL, hehe) and college. (in my original post, I almost forgot how much fluff is in college...)

In my ideal world, the target would be 80%. Let people explore irrelevant subjects on their own time. (i.e. my personal enjoyment of history)

rcox1
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby rcox1 » Thu May 03, 2012 5:02 pm UTC

mric wrote:
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.


I understand what you are saying. Teacher whipped me in nursery school because I could not draw inside the lines. Fortunately I had other influences that did not so rigidly define the requirements of creativity. I also had two years of drafting in high school, and a cousin, an architect, did teach me to draw a pretty straight line freehand.

My comment, however, was not about any of this. It was about the fact that all of us have things we are better at than others. There are things we focus on, and things that get left behind, but we don't make a big deal of it. Some of us can't read that well, but not very many education people are going to shout from the rooftops that they cannot read. Some of us are not mechanically inclined, but we do not have t-shirts proclaiming that we can't fix a sink. So why does it seem like such a medal of honor that we cannot do math? Why is math such a good thing to be bad?

I don't even think most people is bad at math anymore than they are bad at drawing. One important aspect of math, as we go from number sense to variable manipulation, is the abstraction of ideas. 2 time a number gets abstracting into 2 times a placeholder representing any value. Developmentally it is an important stage, from concrete to abstract. Most students make this jump and the the bad grades result not from not learning, but from not being able to express the learning. Which leads to drawing. My biggest problems is people who can draw but thing they can't do math, or can do math but think they can't draw. How can you solve a physics problem if you can't sketch it out. How can you abtract to three point perspecitve, and do the proportion, but not abstract a variable? It makes no sense to me, but I come to realize that most people are much more compartmentalized, perhaps been brain washed by the left brain right brain myth.

HTH
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby HTH » Thu May 03, 2012 5:02 pm UTC

All the fun parts of life are optional.


"Options are optional." -- Sarge

:cry:

DutchUncle
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby DutchUncle » Thu May 03, 2012 5:05 pm UTC

It's part of general American anti-intellectualism to be proud of inability to think.

As a substitute teacher in math class (during a break in my career as a software engineer), a seventh grader asked when he'd ever use any of this stuff; after all, he was going to go into his father's business paving driveways. I pointed out that one needs math to figure out areas to pave, quantities of material, and the price to charge to make a profit. His response: "You just look all that stuff up in a table."

janhunt
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby janhunt » Thu May 03, 2012 6:00 pm UTC

The real problem isn't that children forget the math that is taught to them, the problem is that math (and every other subject) is taught as something separate from life, and in such a boring way. Math is most readily and enjoyably learned by living life and seeing that math is a part of everything else. I learned trigonometry in school, and although I passed the tests, I never really understood it, and forgot it as soon as the term ended. My always-unschooled son taught himself trig from the Internet when he needed it for a project - preparing illustrations while designing a book layout. He is not only competent in math, but more importantly, he really understands the process - the "why" behind the formulas. He has learned all kinds of math quickly and eagerly because he needed it in real life while pursuing his own interests. A child's interests and personal enthusiasms are completely ignored in school, making learning a difficult and tedious experience that children can't wait to leave. To learn more about natural learning, see Sir Ken Robinson's TED Talk "Bring On The Learning Revolution! and his presentation "Changing Education Paradigms" in Yahoo. As John Holt wrote, "When we make a child afraid, we stop learning dead in its tracks."

aerogen42
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby aerogen42 » Thu May 03, 2012 7:02 pm UTC

This comic is wrong because:

1-Algebra is not fun.
2-Music, Cooking and Language are actually quite interesting and not boring at all.
3-I can use music to make something beautiful, cooking to make something tasty and foreing language to argue with foreing people on the internet (as I just happen to be doing right now).
4-Our necessities cannot be reduced to mere survival, for Christ's sake, we are humans and have a souls. If we were to be satisfied just by eating, sleeping and fucking we would be nothing more than pigs.

Dojji
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Dojji » Thu May 03, 2012 7:10 pm UTC

DutchUncle wrote:It's part of general American anti-intellectualism to be proud of inability to think.


Wow, you really CAN shoehorn an irrelevant anti-American rant into everything. Feature that.

As a substitute teacher in math class (during a break in my career as a software engineer), a seventh grader asked when he'd ever use any of this stuff; after all, he was going to go into his father's business paving driveways. I pointed out that one needs math to figure out areas to pave, quantities of material, and the price to charge to make a profit. His response: "You just look all that stuff up in a table."


Yep. and when he runs into an irregular shape, he'll get his. You encounter short-sighted people anywhere. Forcing them to understand the basics in spite of themselves is an arduous and thankless task, but basic literacy and numeracy, at the very least, are essential to be able to learn anything else, so it's still worth the effort.
Last edited by Dojji on Thu May 03, 2012 7:14 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Dojji » Thu May 03, 2012 7:14 pm UTC

janhunt wrote:The real problem isn't that children forget the math that is taught to them, the problem is that math (and every other subject) is taught as something separate from life, and in such a boring way. Math is most readily and enjoyably learned by living life and seeing that math is a part of everything else. I learned trigonometry in school, and although I passed the tests, I never really understood it, and forgot it as soon as the term ended. My always-unschooled son taught himself trig from the Internet when he needed it for a project - preparing illustrations while designing a book layout. He is not only competent in math, but more importantly, he really understands the process - the "why" behind the formulas. He has learned all kinds of math quickly and eagerly because he needed it in real life while pursuing his own interests. A child's interests and personal enthusiasms are completely ignored in school, making learning a difficult and tedious experience that children can't wait to leave. To learn more about natural learning, see Sir Ken Robinson's TED Talk "Bring On The Learning Revolution! and his presentation "Changing Education Paradigms" in Yahoo. As John Holt wrote, "When we make a child afraid, we stop learning dead in its tracks."

The problem is that some of the basic stuff HAS to be done by rote. The only way to learn certain basic facts -- spelling, multiplication tables, and a few others -- is through memorization, and memorization is best done by repetition -- which is, by nature, boring.

The problem comes when it never STOPS being rote. When a teacher lacks imagination in coming up with ways to apply math in a classroom, that's when it becomes boring.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Yakk » Thu May 03, 2012 7:49 pm UTC

I never memorized the 7 times table. I can do math fine (mostly, with some errors whenever I run into a 7). Despite this, my ability to do mathematics is above par.

I still spell words incorrectly a ridiculous fraction of the time. Words I often use that spellcheck fails to catch I have put some effort into memorizing. Spelling is, in fact, a choice -- we choose to make it matter more than it has to, in my opinion -- as a guess, because of academia being based off of dead languages for which spelling was fixed and unchanging, which was viewed as a preferable state to the vulgar spelling of natural languages, so the strict spelling was forced upon natural languages. My skills at spelling come more from writing and reading than they do from rote memorization -- I recognize badly spelled words because they look funny, not because I know the right spelling, and I get better at spelling while writing because the tools that I use to write give me nearly instant feedback on errors.

Trusting math to work out how much to pave an irregular shape is probably a bad idea. Working it out by cutting it up into smaller chunks and approximation will be less error prone - don't get me wrong, I'd do it via math, but I'd also cut it up and sanity check my work that way. And with a bit of experience, you'd be able to eyeball the irregular shape anyhow. Mathematics does let you get away with less experience, and boost your accuracy when you do have the experience, but being able to calculate the area isn't required. (Barring something way outside of the experienced person's comfort zone, like paving an irregular set of paths that snake all over a 500m x 500m area.)
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby bmonk » Thu May 03, 2012 8:05 pm UTC

DutchUncle wrote:It's part of general American anti-intellectualism to be proud of inability to think.

As a substitute teacher in math class (during a break in my career as a software engineer), a seventh grader asked when he'd ever use any of this stuff; after all, he was going to go into his father's business paving driveways. I pointed out that one needs math to figure out areas to pave, quantities of material, and the price to charge to make a profit. His response: "You just look all that stuff up in a table."

Reminds me of the similar response that most engineers don't really use more than algebra: for more complex formulas, there are books of tables all prepared.
janhunt wrote:The real problem isn't that children forget the math that is taught to them, the problem is that math (and every other subject) is taught as something separate from life, and in such a boring way. Math is most readily and enjoyably learned by living life and seeing that math is a part of everything else. . . . A child's interests and personal enthusiasms are completely ignored in school, making learning a difficult and tedious experience that children can't wait to leave.


And there are teachers that can take interests and make them boring. I recall that, in 8th grade, a teacher had an individualized math program: 4 chapters of basics, in which you either could test out, or go through the parts you needed, and then take the chapter test. After those first 4 chapters, there were about a dozen more you could take as you were interested. It was enjoyable and a good way to learn--and two or more students could even work together if they wanted.

Along came another teacher, and made it worse than the first. Everyone took the pre-test, then went through each exercise, no matter what grade they got, then took the final test, went to chapter two, and so on. Even the optional chapters were to be taken in order. Totally ignored the whole intent of the program!
Last edited by bmonk on Thu May 03, 2012 8:13 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby janhunt » Thu May 03, 2012 8:08 pm UTC

Dojji wrote:The problem is that some of the basic stuff HAS to be done by rote. The only way to learn certain basic facts -- spelling, multiplication tables, and a few others -- is through memorization, and memorization is best done by repetition -- which is, by nature, boring.

The problem comes when it never STOPS being rote. When a teacher lacks imagination in coming up with ways to apply math in a classroom, that's when it becomes boring.


My son learned everything so quickly it would be hard to call it "rote" and so happily (because he wanted to learn it) it was never boring. See my book The Unschooling Unmanual to see this approach in action through essays by eight unschooling parents. Schools are quickly becoming obsolete in the information age.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Yakk » Thu May 03, 2012 8:49 pm UTC

bmonk wrote:And there are teachers that can take interests and make them boring. I recall that, in 8th grade, a teacher had an individualized math program: 4 chapters of basics, in which you either could test out, or go through the parts you needed, and then take the chapter test. After those first 4 chapters, there were about a dozen more you could take as you were interested. It was enjoyable and a good way to learn--and two or more students could even work together if they wanted.

Along came another teacher, and made it worse than the first. Everyone took the pre-test, then went through each exercise, no matter what grade they got, then took the final test, went to chapter two, and so on. Even the optional chapters were to be taken in order. Totally ignored the whole intent of the program!
That reads like mastery-based education, where you spend time learning something until you master it.

You'll note that this means you have to teach a whole pile of different students at different points. In addition, there is the effect that people "behind" end up not working along side peers who already understand the material (which can lower the load for the teacher, as said peers can do the teacher's job to some extent).
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

SkunkWerks
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby SkunkWerks » Thu May 03, 2012 8:53 pm UTC

sarysa wrote:
SkunkWerks wrote:
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.


How is this not what we're doing? Of all the subjects I learned in elementary school, high school, and hell...even college...I've only used about maybe 13% of them throughout my career. That 13% may have occupied 15%-20% of my total class time, only thanks to high school electives (PASCAL, hehe) and college. (in my original post, I almost forgot how much fluff is in college...)

In my ideal world, the target would be 80%. Let people explore irrelevant subjects on their own time. (i.e. my personal enjoyment of history)


Should I even point out that

your personal experience =/= what's happening everywhere?

I mean, would it be worth it? Because if it's one aspect of the comic I agree with, it's the sort of conceit displayed by those who "forgot algebra" and similar sorts of people...

Invertin
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Invertin » Thu May 03, 2012 9:41 pm UTC

sarysa wrote:
SkunkWerks wrote:
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.


How is this not what we're doing? Of all the subjects I learned in elementary school, high school, and hell...even college...I've only used about maybe 13% of them throughout my career. That 13% may have occupied 15%-20% of my total class time, only thanks to high school electives (PASCAL, hehe) and college. (in my original post, I almost forgot how much fluff is in college...)

In my ideal world, the target would be 80%. Let people explore irrelevant subjects on their own time. (i.e. my personal enjoyment of history)

Um. How is the school supposed to predict your future job?

If someone does art as a kid, then finds out they're pretty good at it, they might move on to become a designer or something. If you take away that class, you take away that chance to find out his skills. What if you become a historian? Would you even KNOW that you like history so much if you weren't forced to study it?

Excassidy
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Excassidy » Thu May 03, 2012 10:32 pm UTC

I think most people believe math is important for many things, but they believe it isn't the best path to a few of the major things they really crave when they are between 12 and 23 years old.

You can take up an instrument and have dreams of being a rock star. At the very least if you can play a few tunes well, and/or join a band, it can help you get laid. Secondly, playing live music provides an undeniable rush that almost nothing else in life can provide, including solving math problems or speaking a foreign language. You often see kids jamming on their guitars, drums, or keyboards on their own time, and starting bands in their garage because they absolutely love it. You rarely see kids getting together to solve differential equations for the pure joy of it. Even the kids who love math in school rarely practice it for pleasure. So there is a real difference behind the attitudes of many people.

In the same vein, if you know a foreign language, it can help you get laid while visiting other countries, or with hot people from other countries, while your competitors sit there in the proverbial dark. It's also easier to learn. You can immerse yourself in a language and you'll pick it up without having to grind through a rigorous regimen of practice. You just start speaking better the longer you are immersed in that language. Go to a foreign country for a summer, and you'll become conversational with a fair degree of confidence.

Few people in high school think about getting laid or based on their mad math skillz.

All in all, if you told someone they had to invest 1,000 hours of practice in either math, music, or a foreign language, I would say music would easily take the #1 spot, followed by foreign language, then math. Not saying any discipline is better than any other, just saying what people generally get the most enjoyment from when given a choice.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby NiteClerk » Thu May 03, 2012 10:32 pm UTC

Here are two examples of when knowing algebra is useful.

A long time ago I was buy birdseed for wild birds. (The actual numbers are long gone from my memory) Bags of pre-mixed bird see were about $3.50 per pound. I decided that I would only budget $2.00/lb to feed the birds. So I wanted to make my own mix of bird food. Sunflower seeds were $4.00/lb, cracked corn at $1.75/lb and thistle seed at $1.00/lb. I remember using algebra to construct a matrix that would give me different mix ratios to get my price down to $2.00/lb.

Example 2. My daughter in high school needed help with Trig. I looked at the problem and reinvented the formula to find the answer. It involved about 12 steps. But we worked it out on a number of different problems and it worked. The next day she came home very angry. I didn't notice, but about 10 of my steps gave you the radius of a circle. oops. So you need to know higher math in order to help your children with their schoolwork. Well, I have one daughter who has never asked me for math help again. 8)

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby mric » Thu May 03, 2012 10:36 pm UTC

rcox1 wrote:Which leads to drawing. My biggest problems is people who can draw but thing they can't do math, or can do math but think they can't draw. How can you solve a physics problem if you can't sketch it out. How can you abtract to three point perspecitve, and do the proportion, but not abstract a variable? It makes no sense to me, but I come to realize that most people are much more compartmentalized, perhaps been brain washed by the left brain right brain myth.

The real research on it (not the left brain/right brain nonsense) suggests that there are a set of mental characteristics that relate to being good at drawing, including visual memory, angle perception and the degree to which observed images are 'post-processed' in the brain to make them seem the same size whether close or distant (the more 'post-processing' the poorer the drawing ability). There is also, from a paper by Riley et al., 2011, some fairly limited correlation between drawing capability and maths capability, but it is right on the boundaries of statistical significance.

I don't quite understand what it is that doesn't make sense to you about a mathematician or physicist being very poor at drawing. I was once a pretty good physicist and mathematician - after winning a place at Oxford to study physics at the age of 16 I specialised in mathematical physics. I never found my inability to draw a sine wave or a straight line to be a problem, apart from a fear of exam questions that asked me to "draw the apparatus that...". I wonder whether you are confusing an inability to draw with an inability to visualise - a lack of spatial imagination could well be limiting for a physicist or mathematician - but they are completely different things.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby drazen » Thu May 03, 2012 10:46 pm UTC

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.


While your conclusion may be true, that doesn't make the system right or morally justified -- it's pretty much just, "the ends justify the means." But I'm already arguing against exactly that sort of morality in the Bookshelf thread, so I won't get into it here. One unpleasant thread is enough.

Gatto's book was about how corporations and the wealthy pushed for and even helped fund compulsory schooling, and why it damages students on the individual level and is actually used to create a permanent underclass. My extreme dislike for compulsory schooling as currently constituted is along its indoctrination/obedience axis, not its societal function/effectiveness axis.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Edrees » Thu May 03, 2012 11:39 pm UTC

madjo wrote:Dear Randall, if I hadn't learned a foreign language, I'd've been unable to read this forum.
And if I hadn't learned to cook (which I didn't learn in school), I'd have starved.
Two bad examples.

Now, P.E. I could've done without.


You could easily survive working a cashier at some minimum wage job, never needing to cook - you'd make enough money to eat and not starve. You don't need to read this forum to survive. The keyword here is "need" not "want" or "should."

mric wrote:
rcox1 wrote:Which leads to drawing. My biggest problems is people who can draw but thing they can't do math, or can do math but think they can't draw. How can you solve a physics problem if you can't sketch it out. How can you abtract to three point perspecitve, and do the proportion, but not abstract a variable? It makes no sense to me, but I come to realize that most people are much more compartmentalized, perhaps been brain washed by the left brain right brain myth.

The real research on it (not the left brain/right brain nonsense) suggests that there are a set of mental characteristics that relate to being good at drawing, including visual memory, angle perception and the degree to which observed images are 'post-processed' in the brain to make them seem the same size whether close or distant (the more 'post-processing' the poorer the drawing ability). There is also, from a paper by Riley et al., 2011, some fairly limited correlation between drawing capability and maths capability, but it is right on the boundaries of statistical significance.

I don't quite understand what it is that doesn't make sense to you about a mathematician or physicist being very poor at drawing. I was once a pretty good physicist and mathematician - after winning a place at Oxford to study physics at the age of 16 I specialised in mathematical physics. I never found my inability to draw a sine wave or a straight line to be a problem, apart from a fear of exam questions that asked me to "draw the apparatus that...". I wonder whether you are confusing an inability to draw with an inability to visualise - a lack of spatial imagination could well be limiting for a physicist or mathematician - but they are completely different things.


Drawing isn't some innate skill, it's a talent that's practiced. If you take someone who's a great artist, go back in time, force him to never draw anything til he's 50 years old, he'll be a terrible drawer. It's a learned skill that draws upon innate talent, so if a good scientist never practices drawing, he's going to be bad at it, regardless of innate talent he would have had. Your examples don't make any sense. How hard is it to draw a circle or a a square to solve a physics problem? You don't have to draw it to proportion or scale at all. I can solve a free body diagram of forces on a car going down the slope even though i draw the car as a triangle. Doesn't change my answer.

Also, I can visualize things perfectly in my head, but my hand shakes too much to draw it properly. The things that I can't draw I can model perfectly on CAD because I don't need to use my hands to any sort of precision whatsoever.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Rotherian » Fri May 04, 2012 12:13 am UTC

SkunkWerks wrote:
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?


No, 50 Cent words are words like wankster.
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby jgh » Fri May 04, 2012 12:54 am UTC

DutchUncle wrote:As a substitute teacher in math class ... a seventh grader asked when he'd ever use any of this stuff; after all, he was going to go into his father's business paving driveways. I pointed out that one needs math to figure out areas to pave, quantities of material, and the price to charge to make a profit. His response: "You just look all that stuff up in a table."

Last month I was having my gas appliances checked and overheard the plumber telling his apprentice (something like): "this needs to burn 42 in 60 seconds, so run it for 71 seconds, double it and it should be 100, so we can use the reading as the percentage." and the apprentice said "eh?"

To his credit he then told the apprentice where the numbers came from and how to look for shortcuts in maths.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Turiski » Fri May 04, 2012 2:28 am UTC

Excassidy wrote:Few people in high school think about getting laid or based on their mad math skillz.


You're right! I feel this comic is appropriate here...
Approximately 100% of my forum contribution is in Nomic threads! In fact, if you're reading this signature, you probably knew that because you're reading a Nomic thread! But did you know that I've participated in both Nomic 16.0 AND Nomic 15.0? Woah!

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby greyvity » Fri May 04, 2012 2:30 am UTC

I suppose it's really a question of attitude and welcoming new experiences. My whole life I've been trying to find (or sometimes 'it' finds me) ways to justify/to make use of what knowledge/skills I have. I also believe in a good, rounded education.

I have a basic knowledge of chess, self-taught when I was seven. I'm not very good at it, but I am enthusiastic about it so I currently manage the Chess Club at my school.
I came from a science-stream college, so it was compulsory for me to do university-level Math before entering university. I remember once crying in my Statistics class because I couldn't do a question, partly because the question was difficult for me and partly because my teacher was so earnest and so kind, trying to help me understand the question that I felt so guilty for not being able to understand it -- but I've never felt any sort of hatred for Math, I've accepted it's just something that's just beyond my abilities. I'm still interested in Math, Science, Languages, History and Literature (my current passion is comic books/graphic novels and my, you need to know a fair bit because the themes can be rather abstruse and obscure but incredibly exhilarating.) Call me a dilettante if you want, doesn't bother me a bit. Knowledge is usually a good thing to have.

I like xkcd. It's intelligent, funny and silly. I won't claim to understand all of them, but It doesn't make me feel any less intelligent in any way. Googling the subject matter and finding them out is half the fun. (^^)

Also, I love being a teacher. ;)

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Azkyroth » Fri May 04, 2012 6:33 am UTC

Rotherian wrote: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.


I should get around to reading Discworld.

Thanks for the Britainese to English translation :)

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Azkyroth » Fri May 04, 2012 6:37 am UTC

rcox1 wrote:[Which leads to drawing. My biggest problems is people who can draw but thing they can't do math, or can do math but think they can't draw. How can you solve a physics problem if you can't sketch it out.


Fine motor disabilities certainly "helped" me "achieve" this.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Wooloomooloo » Fri May 04, 2012 7:59 am UTC

DutchUncle wrote:As a substitute teacher in math class (during a break in my career as a software engineer), a seventh grader asked when he'd ever use any of this stuff; after all, he was going to go into his father's business paving driveways. I pointed out that one needs math to figure out areas to pave, quantities of material, and the price to charge to make a profit. His response: "You just look all that stuff up in a table."


Let me tell you a joke: "A mathematician, a physicist and an engineer are asked to find the volume of a little red ball. The mathematician of course measures the diameter of the ball then applies the formula for a sphere's volume. The physicist throws the ball into a jug of water and measures the overflow. The engineer... takes a good look at the ball then looks up the nominal volume in the standard little red ball catalog."

Which is funny because it's in no way a joke. Really, that's how it works, you know. There are catalogs and precomputed tables of application-specific data, there are simple formulas at the ready in datasheets for plugging in numbers, and there are programs for modelling stuff that would use not-so-simple formulas. All of which meaning that yes an engineer may well need to get elbow-deep in math if going out of his way to be crank-it-up-to-eleven badass-level creative, but for generic day-to-day stuff, lots and lots of engineers never need to go beyond operations even the basic version of windows' calculator can do. And yes, that includes "awkward-shaped areas" too.

And that brings us to the straw man lots and lots and lots of people in this thread apparently are hell-bent on beating to death under the impression of it having anything to do with the subject being argued - namely that I know full well, you know full well and we all know full well that whatever people mean when saying "I didn't need math after all" is NOT the denial of occasionally performing addition/subtraction/multiplication/division on numbers, plugging numbers into a formula consisting of said operations, or even applying a rule of three to extrapolate something. Instead, what people mean by "unused math" are more exotic things like trigonometrical functions, logarithms, exponential operations past the power 2 or 3 at most, calculating limits, doing operations on matrices, integrating or differentiating, doing any sort of equation solving with x, y and z or anything else requiring the use of math notation on paper involving deduction. So will please everybody stop beating around the bush about this (and the real Slim Shady please stand up)? Because all of this stays indeed forever unused for most people after they leave school.

And finally, I don't really see why the glee is hard to understand - it's not. Most math is really hard for most people to comprehend, hard enough to need countless hours of torturous study - it's really not the kind of stuff one can just "tough out" and endure semi-passively. Some might really enjoy it, but for most people it's just years and years of misery. Which our teachers keep justifying by saying "this is really important stuff you'll definitely need", while most of us keep thinking "the hell I will, I'm not blind - no grownup I know actually uses any of this" while never getting to actually say it, obviously. Which fully explains why years and years later one might feel compelled to revisit the subject upon bumping into one's former teacher - they finally get the chance to say out loud what effectively amounts to "well guess what, you were WRONG and I was RIGHT back then - I really didn't need any of that, and you had no legitimate excuse to inflict it upon me all that time; you're a liar at best, and a sadistic bastard at worst!". Simple, no?

And yes, the sentiment is in no way restricted to math - it's just that no other subject has the miserable cost/benefit ratio that most math beyond basic arithmetic has (for most people), yet none is pushed so aggressively as "indispensable" while not actually being so (for most people). I'm not saying nobody ever solved a single equation after leaving school, and frankly I don't give a damn whether you personally do it daily or not - the average Joe will probably never need to solve as much as a quadratic equation for as long as he lives, and that's that.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby HungryHobo » Fri May 04, 2012 8:24 am UTC

Dojji wrote: multiplication tables, and a few others


I never rote memorised the multiplication tables, I never really got why people tried to memorise them as you would a speech for an event to be parroted without understanding.

they're blindingly obvious, they're not something you have to learn and if you get the rules then you can be vastly faster than the lazy fools who learn to parrot . It also allows you to do more complex mental arithmetic beyond where normal times tables end.

Rote learning is a tool for teachers so stunningly lazy that they refuse to teach understanding or don't even get that there's understanding to be taught.

Wooloomooloo wrote:And finally, I don't really see why the glee is hard to understand - it's not. Most math is really hard for most people to comprehend, hard enough to need countless hours of torturous study - it's really not the kind of stuff one can just "tough out" and endure semi-passively. Some might really enjoy it, but for most people it's just years and years of misery. Which our teachers keep justifying by saying "this is really important stuff you'll definitely need", while most of us keep thinking "the hell I will, I'm not blind - no grownup I know actually uses any of this" while never getting to actually say it, obviously. Which fully explains why years and years later one might feel compelled to revisit the subject upon bumping into one's former teacher - they finally get the chance to say out loud what effectively amounts to "well guess what, you were WRONG and I was RIGHT back then - I really didn't need any of that, and you had no legitimate excuse to inflict it upon me all that time; you're a liar at best, and a sadistic bastard at worst!". Simple, no?

And yes, the sentiment is in no way restricted to math - it's just that no other subject has the miserable cost/benefit ratio that most math beyond basic arithmetic has (for most people), yet none is pushed so aggressively as "indispensable" while not actually being so (for most people). I'm not saying nobody ever solved a single equation after leaving school, and frankly I don't give a damn whether you personally do it daily or not - the average Joe will probably never need to solve as much as a quadratic equation for as long as he lives, and that's that.


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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby mric » Fri May 04, 2012 8:35 am UTC

Wooloomooloo makes a good point.

It is not 'weird' that people present themselves as proud of their maths ignorance, given the emphasis placed on maths capability within schools. The pride is a direct reaction to a form of emotional bullying, in which their whole character and worth was undermined because of a lack of facility with maths - the fact that they then successfully operated without those maths skills is a source of pride.

Few other subjects have the combination of huge innate ability spreads, high cultural pressure to succeed within schooling, and low utility for the practice of the skills learnt.

My suggestion would be, rather than claiming a high practical utility for maths beyond the basics, to be honest. "More advanced maths is normally only practically useful for a small number of people, but it is one of the best yardsticks we have to measure your capability for certain types of abstract thinking. Fail to do well at it, and you will be competitively disadvantaged against more successful mathematicians for the first five years of your career."

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby mric » Fri May 04, 2012 8:42 am UTC

HungryHobo wrote:I never rote memorised the multiplication tables, I never really got why people tried to memorise them as you would a speech for an event to be parroted without understanding.

they're blindingly obvious, they're not something you have to learn and if you get the rules then you can be vastly faster than the lazy fools who learn to parrot . It also allows you to do more complex mental arithmetic beyond where normal times tables end.

Rote learning is a tool for teachers so stunningly lazy that they refuse to teach understanding or don't even get that there's understanding to be taught.

I am not sure I agree with your 'blindingly obvious' statement. What rules do you use to work out what 7x7 is? And how are they faster than knowing (by rote) that the answer is 49?

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby AvatarIII » Fri May 04, 2012 9:35 am UTC

mric wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:I never rote memorised the multiplication tables, I never really got why people tried to memorise them as you would a speech for an event to be parroted without understanding.

they're blindingly obvious, they're not something you have to learn and if you get the rules then you can be vastly faster than the lazy fools who learn to parrot . It also allows you to do more complex mental arithmetic beyond where normal times tables end.

Rote learning is a tool for teachers so stunningly lazy that they refuse to teach understanding or don't even get that there's understanding to be taught.

I am not sure I agree with your 'blindingly obvious' statement. What rules do you use to work out what 7x7 is? And how are they faster than knowing (by rote) that the answer is 49?


i think it depends on the person, personally I always thought it was crazy that times tables were learnt up to the 12 times table, i always felt it makes more sense to just work it out from scratch using rules, taking 7*7 as an example, remembering that it's 49 is fine, but does it really take much longer to remember the rule that multiplication times five is the same as times ten and halved, giving 35, and then that 7*2 is 14, and adding them together?

i remember reciting multiplication tables and always working them out on the fly because I had a rubbish memory.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby HungryHobo » Fri May 04, 2012 11:37 am UTC

AvatarIII wrote:i remember reciting multiplication tables and always working them out on the fly because I had a rubbish memory.


pretty similar though from about the point where multiplication was explained to me (as in 5*4 is the same as 5+5+5+5) it's just been something that is, not really something to be memorised.
The 0's, 1's, 2's,don't need to be thought about and even the 3's don't really need to be thought about since they're related to 9's so closely.

4's are just 2's doubled

8's ditto.
(as you can imagine I took to binary like a duck to water when it was introuced to me, being able to count to 1023 on my fingers was a side benefit)

if you can't get the 5's then either you're not working in decimal or you must have trouble with the 2's as well.

6's again are closely related to the 3's and 9's so that takes most of the thinking out of them.

7's are the only ones without a really easy fast and quick rule.

everything 10's and up is repetition of lower order stuff.

Some of the more useful ones:

rules for basic checks of results for errors like any whole number multiplied by any multiple of 9: the digits must add up to a multiple of 9.

so if I glance at

883611 * 29629 = 26180510329

(multiple of 9) * whole number = digits do not sum to a multiple of 9.

or

883611 * 2969 * 229 = 600768002501 (digits do not sum to a multiple of 9. fail)

With no requirement to remember anything except the current digit and the current total remainder 9.

If that fails I can instantly know it's incorrect .
the inverse if of course not true.

but it's good for when you can glance at a 5+ digit * 5+ digit multiplication and say "that's not right" in a moment.

and quite often at least 1 number in a large multiplication is a 9 and if you make a mistake in a calculation it's likely to throw this off.

it quickly gets to be as obvious a sign of error when you look at a calculation as something whole multiplied by 10 not ending in a 0 or something multiplied by an even not being an even.
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby carolineee » Fri May 04, 2012 1:43 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Trusting math to work out how much to pave an irregular shape is probably a bad idea. Working it out by cutting it up into smaller chunks and approximation will be less error prone - don't get me wrong, I'd do it via math, but I'd also cut it up and sanity check my work that way.
But this cutting it up into smaller chunks IS math. Math isn't about calculating something the most complicated way imaginable. It's about finding an elegant and provably good way to do it. Cutting it into simpler shapes and adding up the area of those is a way "mathier" solution than throwing some crazy integrals at it and hoping that the problem will be too frightened to nag you anymore ;)

As for multiplication tables: I agree that everything after 9x9 is useless, but you'll be way faster at multiplications if you just know everything up to 9x9. Of course, you can always go 9+9+9+9+9+9+9+9+9 but don't tell me that's faster or easier than memorizing them.

Wooloomooloo wrote:And that brings us to the straw man lots and lots and lots of people in this thread apparently are hell-bent on beating to death under the impression of it having anything to do with the subject being argued - namely that I know full well, you know full well and we all know full well that whatever people mean when saying "I didn't need math after all" is NOT the denial of occasionally performing addition/subtraction/multiplication/division on numbers, plugging numbers into a formula consisting of said operations, or even applying a rule of three to extrapolate something.

I agree that higher math should be optional, but some basic algebra and the word problems that go along with it should be taught to everybody, because even if they don't solve for x on paper, simple algebra is what they're doing when they're solving their real world word problems and they wouldn't be half as good doing it if they relied on their intuition alone and hadn't practiced it at school. However, I guess it wouldn't do any harm to make any math after 8th or 9th grade optional.
That said, I'd still encourage everybody to continue with math.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Yakk » Fri May 04, 2012 2:08 pm UTC

carolineee wrote:But this cutting it up into smaller chunks IS math. Math isn't about calculating something the most complicated way imaginable. It's about finding an elegant and provably good way to do it.
Yes, cutting it up into smaller chunks can be done in a mathy way.

It can also be done in an ad-hoc way. Measure a bunch of chunks, look them up in tables, add up the numbers in a calculator.
As for multiplication tables: I agree that everything after 9x9 is useless, but you'll be way faster at multiplications if you just know everything up to 9x9. Of course, you can always go 9+9+9+9+9+9+9+9+9 but don't tell me that's faster or easier than memorizing them.
I don't know 7*8. I have to derive it each time. Sure, that makes my 7 times 8 times tables less than perfectly accurate (because I make errors) and slower than it could be.

As for 9*9, I don't memorize it, I instead remember the rule -- 9*x is (x-1) in the tens, followed by whatever makes it add to 9 (namely, 10-x) in the ones. Sometimes I'll toss out a guess then verify it. You could call this memorization.

And yes, mathematics can be used quite profitably in many situations. Someone who is paving a driveway can spend years learning how to use the tables just right (and get good enough to eyeball it), or they could learn some mathematics and find the right parameters. Now, the mathematics route is actually more error prone than the rule-of-thumb route (because the rule-of-thumb route experienced many of the errors along the way to developing the rule of thumb), but the mathematics route can catch up much faster.
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Fire Brns » Fri May 04, 2012 2:18 pm UTC

7*8?
7*7=49
+7=56
not hard at all.

I want to add that the 'practical' times table does go up to 10*10 guys, but it's so blatently solvable we don't even do math once we learn the add a zero rule.
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby goomba25 » Fri May 04, 2012 2:26 pm UTC

Somewhere I've read that the basic math came back when a person needed to take their GREs. Having taken the test within the last 5 years, I can say that yes, some of the basic math (algebra, geometry, trig) was on the exam.

HOWEVER, that is not why I scored in the 89th percentile. My success is owed to the test taking techniques I learned. Here's an example. You are given an equation and asked to solve for the variable. My initial idea was to apply the things I learned in school and solve for it. That works, but given the time available, it is not the optimal* method. Because the GRE is a multiple choice exam, it is quicker to arrange the 5 choices in increasing order, plug in the 2nd and 4th highest values, and use process of elimination.

*Anyone here remember how to do optimization problems from Calc 1?
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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Zamfir » Fri May 04, 2012 2:34 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:
As for 9*9, I don't memorize it, I instead remember the rule -- 9*x is (x-1) in the tens, followed by whatever makes it add to 9 (namely, 10-x) in the ones. Sometimes I'll toss out a guess then verify it. You could call this memorization.

I suspect you (and all of us) have actually memorized quite a large part of the multiplication tables, even if it doesn't always feel that way.

As in, when you don't think about it, you usually know the answer right away. But once you start doubting your memory you have to do a calculation. But the doubt is not really caused by a memory failure, it's an external thing that hinders the more automatic memory.

Like how walking goes more difficult if you're consciously paying attention to it. Oryou recite your phone number flawlessly, then someone asks "are you sure", and suddenly you have think deep and hard. A lot of ingrained memories nearly or entirely bypass conscious thought, and if you try to retrieve them consciously it feels like you have lost the memory.

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Re: 1050: "Forgot Algebra"

Postby Rotherian » Fri May 04, 2012 2:35 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:7*8?
7*7=49
+7=56
not hard at all.


Or (((7*2)*2)*2)
7*2 = 14
14*2 = 28
28*2 = 56.

/shrug
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