"Relevant" Math

New Math

“Some of you who have small children may have perhaps been put in the embarrassing position of being unable to do your child’s arithmetic homework because of the current revolution in mathematics teaching known as the New Math. So as a public service here tonight, I thought I would offer a brief lesson in the New Math. Tonight, we’re gonna cover subtraction. This is the first room I’ve worked for a while that didn’t have a blackboard, so we will have to make do with more primitive visual aids, as they say in the ed biz. Consider the following subtraction problem, which I will put up here: 342 minus 173. Now, remember how we used to do that:
Three from two is nine, carry the one, and if you’re under 35 or went to a private school, you say seven from three is six, but if you’re over 35 and went to a public school, you say eight from four is six …and carry the one, so we have 169.
But in the new approach, as you know, the important thing is to understand what you’re doing, rather than to get the right answer. Here’s how they do it now:”
You can’t take three from two,
Two is less than three,
So you look at the four in the tens place.
Now that’s really four tens
So you make it three tens,
Regroup, and you change a ten to ten ones,
And you add ’em to the two and get twelve,
And you take away three, that’s nine.
Is that clear?
Now instead of four in the tens place
You’ve got three,
‘Cause you added one,
That is to say, ten, to the two,
But you can’t take seven from three,
So you look in the hundreds place.
From the three you then use one
To make ten ones…
(And you know why four plus minus one
Plus ten is fourteen minus one?
‘Cause addition is commutative, right!)…
And so you’ve got thirteen tens
And you take away seven,
And that leaves five…
Well, six actually…
But the idea is the important thing!
Now go back to the hundreds place,
You’re left with two,
And you take away one from two,
And that leaves…?
Everybody get one?
Not bad for the first day!
Hooray for New Math,
New-hoo-hoo Math,
It won’t do you a bit of good to review math.
It’s so simple,
So very simple,
That only a child can do it!
“Now, that actually is not the answer that I had in mind, because the book that I got this problem out of wants you to do it in base eight. But don’t panic! Base eight is just like base ten really – if you’re missing two fingers! Shall we have a go at it? Hang on…”
You can’t take three from two,
Two is less than three,
So you look at the four in the eights place.
Now that’s really four eights,
So you make it three eights,
Regroup, and you change an eight to eight ones
And you add ’em to the two,
And you get one-two base eight,
Which is ten base ten,
And you take away three, that’s seven.
Now instead of four in the eights place
You’ve got three,
‘Cause you added one,
That is to say, eight, to the two,
But you can’t take seven from three,
So you look at the sixty-fours…
“Sixty-four? How did sixty-four get into it?” I hear you cry! Well, sixty-four is eight squared, don’t you see? “Well, ya ask a silly question, ya get a silly answer!”
From the three, you then use one
To make eight ones,
You add those ones to the three,
And you get one-three base eight,
Or, in other words,
In base ten you have eleven,
And you take away seven,
And seven from eleven is four!
Now go back to the sixty-fours,
You’re left with two,
And you take away one from two,
And that leaves…?
“Now, let’s not always see the same hands!
One, that’s right.
Whoever got one can stay after the show and clean the erasers.”
Hooray for New Math,
New-hoo-hoo Math!
It won’t do you a bit of good to review math.
It’s so simple,
So very simple,
That only a child can do it!
“Come back tomorrow night…we’re gonna do fractions!”
From the album “That Was The Year That Was”
“New Math” Written by Tom Lehrer

Ahhhhh public schools; “Where an unindoctrinated mind is a terrible thing!” ™
What brings about all this mathematical hullabaloo you ask? Well, it’s like this.
The youngest ape in residence ™ was having his homework looked over by his mother, when she came to an interesting answer to one of his math homework questions. It seems he was convinced enough in his third grade level math mind to place “18 inches” down as being the answer to how much was a third of a yard? Now being somewhat curious at how he arrived at that conclusion, He was asked; “How many inches are there in a foot?” After offering three or four different answers to that one. (And we are not talking about a rider of the short bus here. The youngster in question has a B+ – A- grade average, over all, on his last report card) Our intrepid scholar settled on 12 inches being the answer.
This was not a good thing. Having a 10 year old unable to spit out “12 inches” without even thinking about it. Or knowing what 1/3rd of a yard is, with out hesitating is sad. And granted it is not the end of the world. But it does start sending off warning signals saying something is amiss at the local institute of learning.
Hmmm well, his grades are not showing there being a problem (A’s and B’s across the board….my parents would have been doing cartwheels and handstands had my report card been that good at that age). He hasn’t been absent from school for any major amount of time, in fact any days off were the same ones every one else had. There have not been any questions about “this math problem or that math problem”, so to the best of our knowledge he was understanding what was/is being taught. And at the last teacher conference there were no indications anything major was amiss.
Yet here is a child, for all intents and purposes, through no fault of his own (that we are aware of), is unclear about basic breakdowns of common units of measure.
(Looking back on a couple of other areas, there are some other concerns as well, but they can wait for another day. But be thinking about when you were taught how to use a dictionary, thesaurus, the encyclopedia, and other reference works.)
They are dumbing down our kids. With the “new approaches” to Mathematics being used by more and more schools across the country, it’s only a matter of time before your kid or grandkid can receive the same quality mathematics education as we have here. And ours is considered one of the better school districts in a three county wide area (if not the whole state).
The system they use has what is called a “student reference book” and “student math journals”. The first publication is what we, in more simpler times, would have called a Math book or text. The second is more commonly referred to as “homework” (or if you had a specific book to do your working directly relating to that subject/textbook, “it” was called a “workbook”).
I can understand an honest effort to find ways to improve the absorption of math in to minds otherwise occupied with anything from Spongebob Squarepants to the latest video game, to heaven knows what else, anything but Maaaaath! There were many a day I would have much rather looked out the window at the falling leafs, the new snow fort, the bright spring afternoon calling for a game of baseball. But thanks to good teachers, parents with strong and long arms, and knowing I had to memorize the multiplication tables assigned for that days homework or I couldn’t go out, I somehow was able to get the basics. Per pressure helped too. Better to know what an isosceles triangle was (and possibly becoming a math geek) then to not know the answer when called on, and be laughed at “Isn’t that the place out in the ocean where all those ships and planes keep disappearing?” just doesn’t cut it for an answer. “No, Spicoli, wrong triangle, wrong country, wrong answer, please sit down!”
Now the kids are using calculators at an ever younger age. Punching keys to get an answer may build up your finger muscles, it does little for your brain, and in enforcing lessons to be learned. (Well, ok, it does get rid of the *boring* repetition of writing out a math problem…now doesn’t THAT make math more exciting for your Johnny?). I can see them being used as tools for those who have ventured on into advanced Calculus and Trigonometry. They have no place in grade school.
Having math experiences (we used to call em word problems) that try to make math *relevant* or *directly relate* to a child’s day to day environment…..paaalease! The folks in the ivory towers have no clue as to what is going on out in the real world. And as PC as they are (despite the fact you cannot make every book “relevant” to every child) I wonder when we will see the following relevant math problem:
Johnny, while walking to the lunch room is asked by Bob if he wants to purchase three (3) Thai sticks after school. Each stick is twenty-five (25) dollars and with the right amount of skill each will result in twenty (20)joints each. If Johnny agrees to the deal he has to come up with the money when the deal goes down that afternoon.
A. How much money does Johnny need to get all three (3) sticks?
B. How many joints can Johnny produce from his purchase?
C. At five dollars per joint, how much money can Johnny make over the cost of his purchase, by selling the joints to others in the hood?
A. A hundred (100) dollars…Seventy-five (75) dollars for the weed, and another twenty-five (25) to slip to his little sister so she will keep her mouth shut about Johnny ripping off the c-note from the cookie jar.
B. Thirty (30) joints….and ten (10) *big bombers* for the party next Friday.
C. Shiiiiit I don’t know, I blew all the cash on munchies
As you can see from the above, all three answers are correct (There are no longer any *wrong* answers, just students who are not asked the *right* questions.) If you thought the answers were as follows:
A. $75.00
B. 60 joints @ 20 joints per stick
C. $225.00
Well, you just have an old math mind, and/or are terribly insensitive and unaware of the world around you.
*Sigh*, I am off to go find my old slide rule and see if I can remember how to use it.


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