Thursday, October 08, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Forty-Four.

44. Stop teaching any math past algebra and geometry to almost everybody, and instead just provide a general theory of math to high schoolers.

The list of subjects that schools shouldn't bother teaching is endless, and the list of subjects they should teach is endless, too. The former begins with any math more advanced than algebra and geometry -- and I mean basic algebra and geometry, which should be taught until about 8th or 9th grade. Then, in 9th or 10th grade, there should be a general "Theory of Math" class that provides no equations, and in 11th and 12th grade kids could ignore pointless math classes that have no bearing on the real world for 99.99% of people, and could learn helpful things.

I began this Way by thinking to myself: I'm tired of trying to explain to my kids why it's important that they learn calculus. It's hard to explain that, and here's why: they don't need to know calculus.

Or trigonometry.

Or most other -onometries or -culuses or anything like that.

They won't need them and they shouldn't have to learn them.

I used to justify those classes by saying Well, math is kind of like learning a different language, but it's the language of the universe and of logic and it's important to know that kind of thing because it teaches you how to think and understand the world.

Yeah, I'm the kind of parent who actually says those things.

But why, I think now, is it important for anyone to understand this equation:

If they're not going to use it? The answer is, it's not important.

What is important, as far as math goes, is some of the thinking behind it. I've read, since graduating college, a lot of books that are about math or are tangentially related to math or which have a lot of math in them -- everything from Zero to The Man Who Loved Only Numbers to Hyperspace -- and I enjoyed them, but I enjoyed them by skipping the math and focusing on the theory.

The theory, the way numbers describe our universe and its rules, is what's important about math for regular people. Knowing how to do that stupid equation isn't, and it's turning kids off of math, and school, and thinking, and also it's wasting their time and our money.

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

1 comment:

Petri Dish said...

I'm starting to think that somewhere there are old men having a meeting somewhere about new ways to keep learning boring. All teachers have to pass a course in being boring before they can teach.
How else can something as amazing as math and science be so boring. Math should be a guaranteed pass. The results are fixed. I can't think of the last time I ran into an exception to an equation.
Science, good Godie, science. How can they make cool shit like acids, planets and fermentation boring. We got to do some wine making and SOMEHOW, it was still as dull as hell. How can they possibly make liquormaking seem dull to teens?
It's a plot.It's all a big plot to get us interested in unnecessary subjects.
They got me into languages. How useful. I can travel now and say, "Please hire me, I have no practical skills but listen to me conjugate some irregular verbs."