Category: humor

Algebra Lament

Woe, my name is algebra.

I help people communicate about important relationships; people use me to predict future conditions.

Woe, my name is algebra.

I have been shunned and made fun of.  The fault is not mine; no, the fault is almost entirely that of ‘algebra courses’ taught without a focus on understanding, without attention to communication about the world.  The quadratic formula is not my fault!!

Woe, my name is algebra.

People think that I am another name for right answers to meaningless questions, that I am the effort to emulate some perfect series of steps to solve those meaningless questions.  I am not some worthless set of dance steps, steps being marketed in the absence of music or creativity.  Just because I can’t carry a tune doesn’t mean that I lack creativity!

Woe, my name is algebra.

I am the written language to communicate about matters quantitative.  Rejecting me is the rejection of the basic goals of education in the modern era.  For, how can people understand the world when all they can do is vaguely describe the qualitative traits … or calculate values for a few specific cases?  I may have faults, but ‘lack of clarity’ is not one of them!

Woe, my name is algebra.

My properties allow people to transition from a sum to a product, and to discover the almost magical explosion of options for working with expressions.  My properties allow people to express functions of variables in ways which uncover critical features of the relationships.  Instead of this beauty, most people are told that overly complicated trivial work is ‘algebra’.

Woe, my name is algebra.

I live in the core of science and society, despised solely for the company I’ve kept.  Did I have any say in that company?  Is it my fault that school mathematics is often taught in poor ways and with ‘outcomes’ which add no value for the learner?

Woe, my name is algebra.

My reputation has been ruined by others.  I am like a poor citizen who needs to be represented by public defenders who do not see my value.  The public defenders have good intentions about our students, but represent me in such a negative fashion that the majority of students conclude that I am worthless … and that they (the students) can never understand me.  My remote cousin with a similar name, ‘linear algebra’, has much better respect and cred.

Woe, my name is algebra.

I have been placed in two boxes.  One box is labeled “use only enough to get an answer”, perhaps to questions students might care about.  The other box is labeled “recipes for right answers to artificial questions”.  Does anybody put geometry in these boxes?  Does anybody put statistics in these boxes?  I can tell you that I seldom have any company in these boxes, and never for very long.  Let me out of the box!!

Woe, my name is algebra.

 Join Dev Math Revival on Facebook:

“Mathematica Rex” — Present on YOUR Campus??

One of the items I read recently is called “A Field Guide to American Higher-Ed Reformers”, by Steven Ward.  See http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2015/04/06/a-field-guide-to-american-higher-ed-reformers

This is a humorous (to me!!) catalog of current players in higher education and reform efforts.  One of the entries — ‘mathematica rex’ — was especially interesting, given the title.  The people with this ‘label’ are “Technocratic education managers and administrators”; in other words, administrators who depend upon technology and data even when such tools are not supported by understanding and vision.  I have some members of this species on my campus now, and perhaps you do as well.

You might read this field guide for humor, as I did.  You might also read it with an eye for identifying the most dangerous of the species.  I find it difficult to say which of two species is the more dangerous: Benevolentia disrumpo or Pecunia cogitans.

By the way, most of the people who read (or write) blogs like this are on the field guide.

Enjoy!

 Join Dev Math Revival on Facebook:

Best Wrong Answer Ever!! How to not graph a function

I never laugh at a student, though I often try to laugh with a student.

Today, we had our first test in our intermediate algebra class.  In this class, I like to extend the very simplistic work the textbook does with graphing functions; we cover this in class, and students have a small set of practice problems.

Well, on one student’s test, I see this:

I would like to graph this function giraffe in the way Jan2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Join Dev Math Revival on Facebook:

Welcome to the New World Order, Where Everybody “Gets Math”

As we all know, the world ended recently (December 21, 2012).  Being mathematicians and scientists, we will use the more specific statement:  After December 21, 2012 (on the typical Western calendar), human life on Earth changed in a basic way.  I think we’d all agree with this statement as being so obvious a statement that it might seem trivial.

However, what is not so obvious is the information I have recently acquired concerning the nature of this change.  Through the sophisticated work of quarks, photons, and Marvin the Martian, everybody will now ‘get math’.  We will no longer have students ask ‘when will I use this’, because they will understand the math and appreciate the innate value of this understanding.  No longer will we have students say “I’ve always been terrible at math”, though a few might have a nagging feeling that they weren’t always really good at math.

In this new world order, math will not filter students from any field of study or life work.  This will not mean that all students will have STEM majors; this is okay … we need some people who are not geeks or nerds about math & science, who choose to learn the truly hard stuff that normal people do not get (like arts, language, and psychology).

We will, of course, have a difficult period of adjustment.  In math classes, we are accustomed to spending a great deal of energy on motivation and confidence; it will take time for us to change, and we can just hope that our students will be patient with us as we struggle with their competence with math.

The only serious point in this post is this:

Sometimes, we expect most students to have trouble understanding math; perhaps we would be better served by a possibly baseless optimism that most students can “get math”.

“Go math in 2013!!”

 Join Dev Math Revival on Facebook:

WordPress Themes