One of my biggest pet peeves is adults modeling stupidity in front of kids. I don't mean making mistakes; I think it's good for kids to see that not everyone is infallible. I don't mean showing differences in tastes, either; I found it enormously liberating when my excellent high school teacher told us she hated Milton's Paradise Lost. I mean when people say an entire field of endeavor is just too hard, without even trying to crack it.

I generally watch the morning news while getting dressed for work. The channel I watch focuses a lot on local news. Yesterday they had a piece about a student-run math tutoring program at a local high school. The kids being interviewed had an equation written out on a white board to be reduced - something like 14a^2b / 42ab^3. (I'm using the ^ for powers, so a^2 is a squared). So OK, divide by 7, divide by a and b, realize the numeric part comes to 2/6 and divide by 2 to reduce farther. How hard is that? I had it solved in my head in about thirty seconds, and despite working in engineering, I very rarely do any math harder than balancing a checkbook.

The news anchors were all "Oh, that's too hard, I wouldn't have any idea how to solve that." Grr. People like that explain how the "Math is hard" Barbie made it to market. I wouldn't have a problem if they were talking about solving a differential equation, which is probably not required in J-school, but an adult ought to know 7th-grade algebra, or at least refrain from suggesting that it's perfectly peachy not to know it.

The only redeeming facotr is that I suspect not too many kids watch the morning news and the ones being interviewed already do now how to reduce a simple equation.

I think I was right about the feline issues. Yesterday I was home all evening, having been out the previous two evenings, and the cat was not only much more relaxed, he didn't start miauling until about two minutes before the alarm.

Posted by dichroic at September 1, 2006 11:05 AMComments

FWIW, I'm not a stupid person and I wouldn't be able to do that problem. I simply can't do equations--and I never really could. And I work with numbers for a living. Well, more data analysis, really, but still. Numbers.

Posted by: Natalie at September 1, 2006 12:49 PMBah! That kind of math is EASY!

Had it been geometry on the other hand... I'm with Anne there ;-)

... And just by writing this, I realize how much I miss doing *proper* math... differentiation, integration, calculus in general... *sigh* I wanna go back to school! :-D

Posted by: Maria at September 2, 2006 02:03 AMPost a comment