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Sat Mar 3, 2012, 07:53 PM

In Perspective Evolution of teaching math

[font color=green]Commentary in the Brenham Banner-Press from the local right-wing nut job, retired Air Force Colonel Bill Neinast, about how the teaching mathematics in schools has changed. Examples are given for each decade from the 1950's to today. This story caught my attention since my degree is in mathematics and I once considered teaching at the high school level.

I've also cross-posted this in the Texas Group at http://www.democraticunderground.com/10781447.[/font]

The Evolution of Teaching Math, an anecdote currently making the e-mail rounds, is supposed to be humorous. As you read it and begin to think there might be some truth in the evolution, your laughing gets softer. So take a look.

I bought a burger at Burger King for $1.58. The counter girl took my $2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled eight cents from my pocket and gave it to her.

She stood there, holding the nickel and three pennies, while looking at the screen on her register. I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.

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


http://www.brenhambanner.com/opinion/editorials/in-perspective-evolution-of-teaching-math/article_caa494c6-62f9-11e1-baf7-001871e3ce6c.html

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Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 08:06 PM

1. What do you expect from a Col. who never needed to balance his budget.

I had a retired DI try to teach in the seventh grade (1953). Totally worthless.

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Response to Downwinder (Reply #1)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 11:37 PM

9. The Col. was a JAG. n/t

For someone with his level of intelligence, it seems like the switch has been in the off position for too long.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 08:11 PM

2. one time at blockbuster

back in the days when people went to a place to "rent" dvds, I had a similar experience. The bill was something like $4.65 and I gave the clerk a $5 bill while I was still digging around in my pockets. As she was entering it, I came up with the .65 change and said "Oh, I have the sixty-five cents." She looked at me and said, "Sorry, I've already entered that you paid $5." I said, "it's OK, just take the .65 and give me back a dollar." She said "I can't do that, at the end of the day the amount in the register won't total up correctly, I have to give you thirty-five cents." I stopped a second and said "but it would still be the same thing" and she said "no, it says that your change should be thirty-five cents."

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Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 08:16 PM

3. They left one out

 

In the new math, they spend $100 dollars in base 8 and earned $44 in base six, so what is the logarithm of their percentage profit, in base three?

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Response to saras (Reply #3)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 08:46 PM

4. Crap, now I'm going to have to dig out my algebra book.

I was okay until you asked for the logarithm in base 3. I was expecting it to use a natural logarithm, base e.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Reply #4)

Mon Mar 5, 2012, 10:24 PM

12. No, you take the natural log, then figure out how to express "decimals" in base 3

 

Sorry for the unclear notation. I used a Lisp-based language for a while and developed a pathological dislike of parentheses.

Multiple bases and set theory - great stuff for sixth-grade math. Kind of like every kid should learn to play bagpipe.

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Response to saras (Reply #12)

Mon Mar 5, 2012, 11:01 PM

13. You must of had a great sixth-grade math teacher!

We hit the basics of set theory (unions and intersections) in elementary school, but the topic of multiple bases weren't covered until junior high (7th grade). Logarithms weren't covered until algebra II in high school.

The only math class that we were allowed to use a calculator was trigonometry/analytic geometry which was the most advanced class offered at my "podunk" high school. FYI, I won medals at the state competition in number sense beginning my freshman year and calculator applications (state champ in 1982), so I don't think that anyone considered me to be a slouch.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Reply #13)

Tue Mar 6, 2012, 09:10 PM

14. Calculator? What's that? A funny name for a slide rule?

 

I think we were experimental - the school did a bunch of interesting things. The new math was the first half of a math text, the second half was the basics, using the new math as theory, so that you could do big numbers, approximations, and scientific notation, easily. I think the educational goal was that you get fluent with that stuff early, and get precise later. The first "calculator" I saw was an IBM 360, nearly the size of a semi truck.

On the other hand, my junior year of high school had three computer programming classes, in PL/1 - with PUNCHED CARDS, sent up to the university nightly and ran on that very same IBM, and the resulting printout returned a couple days later. In 1973. I don't think that was normal across the country, was it? I think it had to do with being raised near a big teacher's college.

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Response to saras (Reply #14)

Tue Mar 6, 2012, 11:32 PM

15. LOL! Yes, being near a big university probably influenced the opportunities that you had available.

I did learn how to use a slide rule and understand the principles on how it worked, but I wouldn't say that I was proficient or quick using it. My freshman year of high school was the last year slide rule was offered as an extracurricular competition while calculator applications was given a trial run that year by the UIL in Texas. The calculator applications event was a pre-engineering contest with 54 calculation problems, 16 word problems and 10 geometry problems that got progressively harder throughout the test and 30 minutes was given on the test.

I managed to snag a gold medal at district in my freshman year (silver in number sense), but there wasn't a regional or state competition. It was notable within my high school that year because the high school won district for 17 years in a row and the string was broken and no gold medals were won by anybody in any of the other events (multiple events in journalism and speech, debate, science, spelling, typing, etc.).

The first time that I actually saw computer components was in 1982 when I interviewed a programmer and wrote a research paper on entering that profession. It was a couple years later before I actually worked on a computer when I was in college. The punch card era had already passed although my sisters that were in college had some at home.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 09:48 PM

5. For Christ sakes, that isn't mathematics

That's grade school arithmetic.

Pshaw! No wonder the US is ceding its lead in science and math to other countries. Our education system is broken and our culture portrays mere arithmetic as mathematics.

As a retired mathematics teacher I am sad for this country's future.

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Response to longship (Reply #5)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 11:35 PM

8. It certainly is a shame that so many people need calculators for simple arithmetic.

I tutored high school students in algebra, geometry and calculus I when I was a college student from 1983-1987.

Back in 2000, my next door neighbor was taking trigonometry in college and I would work with him on his assignments. I hadn't taken trig since 1982 in high school, so the only things that I recalled were the values of sine and cosine at 0, 30, 45, 60 and 90 degrees along with the sentence, "Oscar had a hoard of apples Sally can't take" where the first letter is used to define the trig functions in a right triangle (e.g., Oscar had is opposite/hypotenuse = sine), the law of cosines and law of sines. Amazingly, I was able to derive everything else that was needed and my neighbor got through the course with an "A".

Then in 2005, I also had the opportunity to tutor another friend in his college calculus and statistics classes. It was a pleasure working with both of the guys, give something back to others and watch them become successful when they embarked on their careers.

Special thanks to the junior high math teacher who I had in 7th and 8th grades and my high school math teacher that I had all four years (she only taught geometry once in her life and by chance it was the year when I was one of her students, she went on to get her PhD after I graduated). Throughout my entire education, there was only one instructor that I thought was a dud who shouldn't be teaching.

Also a note of thanks for your years of service in the classroom. I imagine that it may have been more lucrative to have a career in the private sector, so I hope that you obtained some satisfaction for the impact that you had on your students.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Reply #8)

Sun Mar 4, 2012, 06:48 AM

10. The problem here is that calculators EXIST, period

As long as they do, people are not going to be learning arithmetical operations as things they use in everyday life. Same with automated everything at restaurants and fast food joints. The problem cited in the OP in practice can be solved by training all cashiers to enter the amount tendered right after the price. There is no way to be comfortable with everyday arithmetic unless you use it. The time of my life when I was best able to do mental arithmetic was when I was a waitress, not when I was in grade school.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 09:56 PM

6. This story has been around since the 70s

and is recirculated every couple years.

The 2010 Spanish addition is offensive and racist, IMO.

Seriously, why do you think this belongs here?

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #6)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 10:48 PM

7. Actually, it was the 2010 Spanish addition that caught my attention.

I am in complete agreement that it is offensive and racist which is the reason why I posted the thread. I think that it is important to know what type of BS the other side spews in order to support their wacko views. It is an example of the type of garbage that is used to justify budget cuts within the public education system.

I believe that it is better to be knowledgable and prepared to provide responses to fight the garbage that comes from the RW fringe. I did not intend to offend fellow DUers and I sincerely apologize if anybody took the OP in that manner.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Sun Mar 4, 2012, 09:55 AM

11. People who pass that thing around haven't been in a math classroom in years.

What's required these days is massive, and not only would it not be spelled out like that, but it would throw in a few other random facts, difficult vocab words, and would be expected to be solved in the most difficult way.

It's not that our kids aren't learning math, just that we're expected not to really hammer home the basics that the calculators can do. They're expected to use their calculators for the basics up through algebra but still understand what's going on, and most students just don't. I wish we would just get rid of those darn things and teach them math right, but Chicago Method has taken over.

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