LOL math

by Jon Sullivan - 2019-10-04

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Learning math is pointless in 2019. Or is it?

I promised my sister I'd help her son with 6th grade math if needed. So of course the questions are coming in, and now I have to relearn stuff I've not used in 40 years. This is slightly humiliating. Also, what happens when he gets to trig or calculus? No way in hell I remember how to do integrals.

The obvious question is - What the hell is this stuff even good for in 2019? Assuming he's not going to be a civil engineer, it's just not needed. I've used math every day of my life, but not the math I learned past the 4-5th grade. Being able to calculate the volume of a cone might be handy if...... ummmmm..... I have no idea. Puzzles in a newspaper? Oh, right, we no longer have newspapers. My high school math teacher mentioned math was good for counting change. Oh, right, we all pay with an app now.

So while it might be easy to explain to the child that math is just a way schools indoctrinate you into being sheep-like by tearing down your soul, I don't feel that way. 6th grade math is critical, and people should take it seriously.

I interview people for programming jobs a lot. One of the main reasons I don't hire someone is their lack of both the ability to analyze problems, and the will to even try. I ask people in interviews programming challenges involving 6th grade math and many of them just freak out. I honestly don't even care if they get a working block of code. I ask the question to see if they can logically think through problems they aren't familiar with. As they should, people applying for a programming job cruise the Internet for interview questions and make sure they have a practised answer all queued up. Tossing in simple math they assumed they'd never use is better than having them just copy stuff from a website.

It's the critical thinking skills I hope kids are learning. The ability to breakdown problems and work out a solution. If you can't work through a code loop just because I used the word "factorial", and then reminded you how factors work, why would I want you anywhere near my codebase?

The person I will hire will be the person who can show me they know how to analyze a problem and work towards an answer. But way too often what I get is people who run into something they didn't memorize right before the interview and then freak out.

So I hope my nephew understands the importance of hard questions involving worthless math skills. If you can work through these sorts of bullshit questions, you are immediately superior to someone who freaks out. And that has tremendous value in just about everything. If as an adult you can calmly and rationally work through a simple math problem in 2019 you will impress the hell out of people. And 6th grade math is where you start learning that skill.

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SHARON SULLIVAN
2019-10-04 11:17:42 : I agree with this completely. And we are taking the questions seriously. I just don't remember how to work the math. I need to patient tutor. Then it will all start making sense.

Joanie Hunt
2019-10-05 05:57:00 : When I was a nurse, I used more math in a day than I did during the 4 yrs of high school.

I was never a math wiz, but I retained enough of what I learned in school that, during testing for admission to nursing school, I actually corrected their test for math skills. They'd had the wrong answer for years and never had anyone notice. Basically, it fell to order of operations, you know, solve parentheses first sort of stuff.

While I know most people aren't going to to need math beyond algebra, I think kids need to know math inside out so they aren't stumped by it when it eventually shows up later in life.

And this "new math" crap they throw at kids these days is just that: crap. There's no logic to it & whoever came up with an even MORE complicated system of learning should be drawn and quartered.

Jon Sullivan
2019-10-05 07:35:54 : Joanie - Thank you for that. I certainly wouldn't disagree with any of that. I think I was reacting to the sorts of questions my sister was struggling with. But I shouldn't generalize math as a whole. I think there's math everyone should learn, and math where time spent on other things might be better. Knowing how common denominators works is important. Drilling on it isn't.

And though I agree the hard challenge of those questions is important, I suspect logic and statistics might be a better path for that.

Either way, all you have to do is look at test scores for American kids vs the rest of the world to prove we're doing it wrong. I found this podcast very illuminating - http://freakonomics.com/podcast/math-curriculum/

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