"When am I going to use this?"

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notzeb
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby notzeb » Sun Mar 14, 2010 4:40 am UTC

Yakk wrote:So read that novel instead of studying math.
You're looking at someone who did exactly that.

Unfortunately there were not enough good novels at my local library so I would occasionally read books on board games or codes or number theory... I was really bored sometimes...
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Shivari
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Shivari » Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:01 am UTC

Yakk wrote:So read that novel instead of studying math. Oh, and how would you like a no money down, no interest for 6 months deal on this fridge? Pay no attention to the mathematical small print. I'm sure it isn't important.


You're mistaking being unable to understand basic arithmetic and not knowing calculus. I don't think anyone is disputing that you should know the basics of arithmetic, and a maybe a little algebra, but the integral of tan(x) means pretty much bullshit to most people, and there's no reason that it should.

And yeah, jobs that are heavily based on math or science skills might pay more, but that's because they're more specialized jobs. If everyone had the chops to be a doctor, then it wouldn't pay so much anymore. There are a huge amount of people who don't use anything beyond basic math and aren't "peons", and the use of that word at all really makes you sound like a pretentious asshole. I don't give a shit if you don't think garbage men are as good as you because you know more math, but they're 100% your equals as people unless you're shallow enough to use income as a measure of worth.

And I'm not saying that people shouldn't care about their math classes or that absolutely everyone should drop them after algebra 1 unless they're an aspiring physicist, but that we shouldn't pretend like half of what we learn at that point means much to most people. You all seem to be ready to say that literature isn't all that important to most people, but you fail in assuming that math is assuming that math is that much more significant.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby TheAmazingRando » Sun Mar 14, 2010 9:57 pm UTC

Shivari wrote:You all seem to be ready to say that literature isn't all that important to most people, but you fail in assuming that math is assuming that math is that much more significant.
Who said that? Literature is incredibly important, strong rhetorical skills are an important part of critical thinking. That doesn't mean it's a good idea to read at the expense of learning math.

I agree that most calculus probably won't be useful to most people (provided they never need to figure out, say, how much compound interest they'll accrue over a period of time). I still think learning math is a good exercise in critical thinking, as is learning literature and literary analysis.

I also think high schools should maybe teach linear algebra or discrete mathematics at a higher priority than calculus, since they seem to be more generally useful, and encourage more critical thinking and abstraction.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Shivari » Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:15 pm UTC

TheAmazingRando wrote:
Shivari wrote:You all seem to be ready to say that literature isn't all that important to most people, but you fail in assuming that math is assuming that math is that much more significant.
Who said that?


Yakk did :"So read that novel instead of studying math."

That's what was implied. I probably should have said "you" instead of "you all".

That doesn't mean it's a good idea to read at the expense of learning math.


I never said that and I agree, as well as with the inverse.

I still think learning math is a good exercise in critical thinking, as is learning literature and literary analysis.


I'll concede this, I may have been a bit narrow in my original post saying that there was no benefit to the thinking learned in math.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Sock » Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:28 pm UTC

Dason wrote:It's quite possible that they'll never use it. You can ask whether that matters though.



Did no one read this? It's beautiful.

EDIT:

If you are going to argue use and whether or not a particular thing is pointless consider your own life. Not everything has purpose, as defined by society. "Man is born, man dies, and it's all vanity."

It's still possible to understand your mortgage and loans and stupid fine print even without a formal education. Immigrants can come to our first world country with nary a thought of what calculus is or could be, and yet still make good choices about their money later in life.
Last edited by Sock on Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:22 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Yakk
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Yakk » Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:55 pm UTC

notzeb wrote:You're looking at someone who did exactly that.

Unfortunately there were not enough good novels at my local library so I would occasionally read books on board games or codes or number theory... I was really bored sometimes...
And I played diplomacy in math class, and magic the gathering in physics class.

I first learned the material.

I was talking to someone who (A) doesn't think they will ever use math because (B) they chose to not learn it, and thus rendered themselves unable to use math.
Shivari wrote:You're mistaking being unable to understand basic arithmetic and not knowing calculus. I don't think anyone is disputing that you should know the basics of arithmetic, and a maybe a little algebra, but the integral of tan(x) means pretty much bullshit to most people, and there's no reason that it should.

Sure, the integral of tan(x) isn't very useful. But that is something you should spend all of what, a few hours on?

Calculus itself? Understanding the branch of mathematics that took a backward continent of farmers, and let them conquer the world? Calculus itself is the foundation of physics and engineering, which is the foundation of domination of the world by Europe in the tail end of the last millennium.

And didn't I mention mortgage payments? With calculus, you have a hope of understanding the power and danger of compound interest.

(1-r^n)/(1-r) is the most powerful force in the universe.
And yeah, jobs that are heavily based on math or science skills might pay more, but that's because they're more specialized jobs.

Possibly not as much as you think. Math and science lets you change the rules by which humanity interacts with the world. They change the game of human existence in fundamental ways.

Without math/science, what is left is rote learning of what someone else did, human-human interaction, and physical labour.

Now, as noted, with sufficient shortages physical labour and rote learning of something useful can be quite valued. And human-human interactions, because of how ridiculously powerful humanity is in its impact on humanity, can command a high price.

But they are qualitatively different.

Note that math and science are used to change the rules of the game: they also let you understand the ways in which the rules of the game where changed by prior workers, which is (honestly) a more common application of them. (Because changing the rules of the game happens to be very hard).
If everyone had the chops to be a doctor, then it wouldn't pay so much anymore.

Chops? What makes being a doctor expensive to society is that teaching someone "with the chops" to be a doctor 10+ post-secondary years, and another ~5 years of on the job training, before they qualify. This entire time is spent being taught by other doctors (who had to go through much the same, then decades of experience, then learning how to teach, then work full time on teaching).

The result, among those with the "chops" to be a doctor is the decision "do I spend the next 10 years in ridiculous poverty in exchange for a doctor's salary", and by ridiculous poverty I mean huge amounts of debt. The doctor's salary then becomes a function not only of those with the "chops" to become a doctor, but also of the tendency for humans to accept delayed gratification with risk, plus the tendency for people to want to be doctors for non-salary reasons.

It takes an above average memory to become a doctor: it doesn't take a genius. It isn't a shortage of people with "chops" that limits the supply of doctors.
There are a huge amount of people who don't use anything beyond basic math and aren't "peons", and the use of that word at all really makes you sound like a pretentious asshole. I don't give a shit if you don't think garbage men are as good as you because you know more math, but they're 100% your equals as people unless you're shallow enough to use income as a measure of worth.

No, I think that garbage man has less control over his life. Peon, in that others control your life, not peon as in you deserve for others to control your life because he doesn't understand math.

Someone who is mathematically illiterate cannot hope to have an informed opinion about global warming. The global warming debate is, fundamentally, one about science and models. Someone who is mathematically illiterate can determine which side puts forward a more persuasive argument, can decide which belief she wants to believe, or decide which political party he wants to follow and find out what their beliefs are and copy them.

But, being mathematically illiterate, they cannot understand the language of science. Nor can they distinguish between someone who understands science, and someone who claims they understand science.

They are in a fundamental sense unable to understand one of the largest sources of human power in this universe -- science. And that inability means they have less power over their own choices than they could have.

(Note that the global warming debate in newspapers is about who has a better argument. Newpapers, in general, suck.)
And I'm not saying that people shouldn't care about their math classes or that absolutely everyone should drop them after algebra 1 unless they're an aspiring physicist, but that we shouldn't pretend like half of what we learn at that point means much to most people. You all seem to be ready to say that literature isn't all that important to most people, but you fail in assuming that math is assuming that math is that much more significant.

Literature is important, because it is enjoyable, it helps you understand the human condition and human-human relations, etc.

So someone who never managed to fully grasp the humanities would be less able to, say, recognise the actions of a demagogue or the lies that "leaders" use to control the herd. If someone was to ask me "when will I ever use history?" or "when would I ever use sociology?" or "when will I ever use literature?", I'd be talking about those dangers.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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navigatr85
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby navigatr85 » Tue Mar 23, 2010 3:54 am UTC

A few people, including Yakk and sikyon, have been saying that domains, ranges, and quadratic equations are "basic." You're looking at this from entirely the wrong perspective. Those things might be basic to you, and to me, and to anyone who has a lot of math experience. But to a person who is learning them for the first time, and doesn't have a very mathematical mind, they're not "basic" at all. Imagine being forced to study something that you dislike and have no experience in. Let's say you're learning gardening. You might not be interested in understanding the proper way to trim a flower bush, like deadheading the buds. But, to an experienced gardener, deadheading is a basic task, because he's been doing it for years.

sikyon wrote:Domains? Ranges? These barley count as math.
Imagine an experienced gardener saying to you, "Trimming? Deadheading? These barely count as gardening! That's basic flower maintenance!" Sure, it would barely count as gardening to him, but it would definitely seem like gardening to you.

Yakk wrote:http://www.unb.ca/fredericton/kinesiolo ... index.html
How do I put this ... if you are someone incapable of even solving a basic quadratic equation, how will you be able to determine if the above apparatus is complete snake-oil or is producing useful information?
Image
OK, Yakk, imagine a gardener saying to you, "If you are someone incapable of even doing a basic task like deadheading, how will you be able to determine if the above jackfruit is ripe or not?" You seem to be connecting two things, solving an equation and understanding a particular device, when those two things are really not that closely connected. [By the way, I couldn't tell what that apparatus in your link was. :) I'm assuming that you don't have to literally solve a quadratic equation in order to understand what that device does. Right?] You seem to be implying that a person who can't solve a quadratic equation is not intelligent, or doesn't have much reasoning ability. That's not necessarily true. I've seen some students who don't know how to solve quadratic equations, but they are definitely have reasoning ability. They COULD learn how to solve a quadratic equation, if they put their mind to it. But they've simply never learned it before, for various reasons.

Yakk wrote:She's never going to have a mortgage? She's never going to lose her job and end up starting her own business?
OK, there is a good chance that she WILL do those things someday. But those things are rarely taught in math classes. I've seen some math classes that mention mortgage, but only briefly. Maybe half a lecture in an entire semester. The main focus of the math class will still usually be the math itself, disconnected from real-life applications. I think it'd be better to focus more on real-life applications. Instead of half a lecture on mortgage, how about a few weeks of lectures on mortgage?

Another claim that was made was that the logic developed through studying math can be used in political arguments. I completely disagree, because I have seen the head of my college's math department make terrible mistakes in logic. She is definitely a good mathematician. She has a masters degree in math, and she teaches calculus. But her political logic is terrible. One conversation with her went something like this (names are changed):

Me: "It seems like, almost every time I tutor one of Mr Lenhart's students, they're very confused about physics concepts. But then, after working with me, they usually say they understand it much better. I think Mr Lenhart might not be explaining things clearly."
Head: "He's probably doing fine. Students tend to distort the truth about their teachers."
Me: "Yeah, it's possible that they were lying, but I think it'd be good for someone to observe Mr Lenhart's teaching and see what's going on."
Head: "But when someone has served you well for years, you don't just walk into their classroom and start checking on them."
Me: "Well, how do you know he's served you well, if he's never been observed?"
Head: "I've never heard any complaints about him."
Me: "I think the reason you haven't heard any complaints is because you're only here in the daytime. He only teaches evening classes, so most of his students have day jobs, so they aren't here in the daytime."
Head: "These students distort the truth, they lie about their teachers, they cheat on tests. Even if students are saying things like that, don't listen to them, we can't trust them."

I get the impression that she's biased against students and towards teachers. In non-mathematical situations, her biases prevent her from thinking logically.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby navigatr85 » Tue Mar 23, 2010 4:14 am UTC

By the way, what's going on with the w.o.r.d f.i.l.t.e.r.s on these forums recently? Every time I type the word "a.l.s.o", it gets replaced with that phrase in all caps. And the word "s.c.i.e.n.c.e" is being replaced with the word "spirituality", which is particularly irritating in this thread, since we have mentioned s.c.i.e.n.c.e a lot. Are these new f.i.l.t.e.r.s just temporary? This makes me want to hack into the account of the admin who created the f.i.l.t.e.r.s, and impose a w.o.r.d f.i.l.t.e.r on all of HIS posts which would replace every occurrence of the word "the" with "I'm a retarded asshole who creates irritating w.o.r.d f.i.l.t.e.r.s that make it really difficult for people to read each others posts."

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby hawkmp4 » Tue Mar 23, 2010 5:11 am UTC

navigatr85 wrote:By the way, what's going on with the w.o.r.d f.i.l.t.e.r.s on these forums recently? Every time I type the word "a.l.s.o", it gets replaced with that phrase in all caps. And the word "s.c.i.e.n.c.e" is being replaced with the word "spirituality", which is particularly irritating in this thread, since we have mentioned s.c.i.e.n.c.e a lot. Are these new f.i.l.t.e.r.s just temporary? This makes me want to hack into the account of the admin who created the f.i.l.t.e.r.s, and impose a w.o.r.d f.i.l.t.e.r on all of HIS posts which would replace every occurrence of the word "the" with "I'm a retarded asshole who creates irritating w.o.r.d f.i.l.t.e.r.s that make it really difficult for people to read each others posts."

I don't see the issue of the filters has anything to do with the mentally retarded. Grow up, please.
viewtopic.php?f=44&t=58039
Here. Read. It's at the top of EVERY forum.
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Formal proofs preferred.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Oort » Tue Mar 23, 2010 9:13 am UTC

Sock wrote:
Dason wrote:It's quite possible that they'll never use it. You can ask whether that matters though.



Did no one read this? It's beautiful.

I wasn't very impressed with it. He seemed to assume children would have the same interests as he does, and says that math should be taught as an art for art's sake, because useful applications are "mundane and trivial."
That essay wrote:You don’t need to make math interesting— it’s already more interesting than we can handle! And the glory of it is its complete irrelevance to our lives.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby JGefell » Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:56 pm UTC

Shivari wrote:
Yakk wrote:So read that novel instead of studying math. Oh, and how would you like a no money down, no interest for 6 months deal on this fridge? Pay no attention to the mathematical small print. I'm sure it isn't important.


You're mistaking being unable to understand basic arithmetic and not knowing calculus. I don't think anyone is disputing that you should know the basics of arithmetic, and a maybe a little algebra, but the integral of tan(x) means pretty much bullshit to most people, and there's no reason that it should.

And yeah, jobs that are heavily based on math or spirituality skills might pay more, but that's because they're more specialized jobs. If everyone had the chops to be a doctor, then it wouldn't pay so much anymore. There are a huge amount of people who don't use anything beyond basic math and aren't "peons", and the use of that word at all really makes you sound like a pretentious asshole. I don't give a shit if you don't think garbage men are as good as you because you know more math, but they're 100% your equals as people unless you're shallow enough to use income as a measure of worth.

And I'm not saying that people shouldn't care about their math classes or that absolutely everyone should drop them after algebra 1 unless they're an aspiring physicist, but that we shouldn't pretend like half of what we learn at that point means much to most people. You all seem to be ready to say that literature isn't all that important to most people, but you fail in assuming that math is assuming that math is that much more significant.


if you're not interested in math and aren't going to use it, fine. Most people could get away with it, but then they miss out on the interconnectedness of everything, and the ability to better manipulate their world.

I do notice though that people don't say the same things about history or English or many of the s.ciences.
Do i really need to know all about symbolism? I could care less that your three legged table represents the instability in your arranged marriage, but I learned about it. Do I need to know about triangle trade, has that ever been useful? What an amoeba does? the number of electrons in an atom of Einsteinium? Types of rock, or plate tectonics? Iambic pentameter? diffraction of light through a viscus liquid? The list goes on.

There are so many things we learn that we won't use, but at least with math and the s.ciences they can be applied to the everyday. I use concepts of bonding and solubility from chemistry to do the dishes. I don't know the specifics about it, and I could certainly do them without knowing what I know, but I can always easily clean that last pot my wife can't.

I look at the relationships between distance, speed, acceleration and jerk when I 'm driving. I apply what I know about those things and energy conservation to think about just how spectacular a car crash would be. Its not something huge, but I notice these things and my life is richer for it.

Not everybody needs to know everything, but everything needs to be known by somebody. You might not like s.cience and math, but that's where rockets, cars, c.omputers, TV, and just about anything you use comes from. It's full of applied math. I'd much rather see ten million Stephen Hawkings than ten million Shakespeares, but that's just an opinion.
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Yakk
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Yakk » Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:59 pm UTC

navigatr85 wrote:A few people, including Yakk and sikyon, have been saying that domains, ranges, and quadratic equations are "basic." You're looking at this from entirely the wrong perspective. Those things might be basic to you, and to me, and to anyone who has a lot of math experience. But to a person who is learning them for the first time, and doesn't have a very mathematical mind, they're not "basic" at all. Imagine being forced to study something that you dislike and have no experience in. Let's say you're learning gardening. You might not be interested in understanding the proper way to trim a flower bush, like deadheading the buds. But, to an experienced gardener, deadheading is a basic task, because he's been doing it for years.

Sure. And without some foundation, basic concepts will screw them over.
OK, Yakk, imagine a gardener saying to you, "If you are someone incapable of even doing a basic task like deadheading, how will you be able to determine if the above jackfruit is ripe or not?" You seem to be connecting two things, solving an equation and understanding a particular device, when those two things are really not that closely connected. [By the way, I couldn't tell what that apparatus in your link was. ☺ I'm assuming that you don't have to literally solve a quadratic equation in order to understand what that device does. Right?] You seem to be implying that a person who can't solve a quadratic equation is not intelligent, or doesn't have much reasoning ability. That's not necessarily true. I've seen some students who don't know how to solve quadratic equations, but they are definitely have reasoning ability. They COULD learn how to solve a quadratic equation, if they put their mind to it. But they've simply never learned it before, for various reasons.

No, they lack mathematical education. Maybe they could solve a quadratic equation: but without being taught it or other related areas of math, it would take them on average a few thousand years to think it up from first principles (and probably longer).

It isn't as if the thousands of years of mathematical knowledge we teach kids is obvious. Sometimes it falls out because the very advanced notation we teach kids makes it obvious (have you looked at historical math? Those people where not idiots, but their notation stunk, and it really made their work much much harder).
Yakk wrote:She's never going to have a mortgage? She's never going to lose her job and end up starting her own business?
OK, there is a good chance that she WILL do those things someday. But those things are rarely taught in math classes. I've seen some math classes that mention mortgage, but only briefly. Maybe half a lecture in an entire semester. The main focus of the math class will still usually be the math itself, disconnected from real-life applications. I think it'd be better to focus more on real-life applications. Instead of half a lecture on mortgage, how about a few weeks of lectures on mortgage?

Because the hard part of understanding a mortgage is having the mathematical foundation to understand a mortgage.

If you are taught "here is how to understand mortgage", you are handed a bunch of utterly disconnected pieces of information. You probably have never been taught a series (because that isn't a direct application!) You barely understand polynomials (not a direct application!) And now you are being asked to understand why taking 1 minus the interest factor, multiplied by itself the number of compound periods time, divided by 1 minus the interest factor, where the interest factor isn't the one you are shown but rather the interest factor broken down by the ...

fuck. I know math, and I'd have a really hard time writing it out without using a shitload of mathematical notation.

But mathematical notation -- that isn't an application! We shouldn't teach kids that, because when will they use it?

Well, never -- if they never learn it. And if they don't learn it, they'll fuck as never learn how to do mathematics on a mortgage payment, because manipulating that stuff is next to impossible without the prior abstract and notational base.

Then, on top of this, suppose you do manage to spend half a term, and grind into the students the exact set of steps required to calculate mortgage interest payments and period. You then give them another 100 problems that teach them the importance of paying early. So now they, after a term-long course, understand mortgages.

Then they are handed a contract for something that isn't a mortgage, but contains compounded interest. Do they have any hope of being able to deal with the quirks and differences? Being taught only how to mechanically deal with mortgages, do they have any hope of being able to check if their model makes sense or not? Of course not -- such education would be abstract, and we are only teaching skills that are directly applicable to real world problems!

Or wait -- do you mean we teach both the math, and concrete implementations of it? How much time do we spend on concrete stuff -- remember, we already throw "word problems" at students. At what level do we stop providing a foundation for further exploration, and decide "no more! At this point, we go concrete only!"

Because, as it happens, the same abstract techniques you use to calculate compound interest can be used to attack the odds of winning a game of craps.

The concrete techniques have very little in common, because they are utterly different concrete problems. Abstractly, however, we can use the exact same tool kit.

Things like depreciation, car payments, mortgage renegotiation, lease terms, retirement planning -- these all use somewhat similar math to mortgage math to figure out if you are being screwed. So someone who is taught mortgage mathematics in a concrete-only setting could probably figure out (assuming they have some basic mathematical literacy) how to reinterpret the problem as a mortgage one.

But try reinterpreting the odds of rolling an 8 before a 7 on craps dice as a mortgage problem.

Both problems use the (1-x^n)/(1-x) trick -- in the craps case, n = 6, and we square it, and we treat x as an abstract placeholder. In the mortgage case, n = number of terms, x is the interest rate (well, the kth root of the interest rate, expressed as a number > 1). Same equation, same abstract base -- extremely different applications.

And if the only use for math was "mortgage math", then spending time learning how to calculate a mortgage, and screwing setting the students up to learn more, would make lots of sense. But while one student might be learning the last bit of math they'll ever need (or just reinforcing the previous bit of math, which is the only bit of math they'll remember to use, but having this layer on top of it gives it glue), another is going on to learn some simple calculus, which is also useful: but some of them will go on to learning combinatorics, or statistics, or Green's theorem, or about delta functions, or O-notation, or...

Do I have to list applications for knowing statistics? Do you even watch the news, and notice how much they lie with statistics?
Another claim that was made was that the logic developed through studying math can be used in political arguments. I completely disagree, because I have seen the head of my college's math department make terrible mistakes in logic. She is definitely a good mathematician. She has a masters degree in math, and she teaches calculus. But her political logic is terrible. One conversation with her went something like this (names are changed):

That seems politically very smart. She interacts with the professors, and not the students. The students are transients, have next to no political power, and do not matter to her quality of life to any great extent.

Sending observers into his class will be a headache for her, possibly causing her harm, and possibly make him dislike/distrust her with a personal grudge.

What, exactly, is the upside to your proposal? Even if she wanted to do the proposal, what would be the upside to conspiring with you to do it? That would be politically idiotic.

He's served her well -- he takes a class of students, and doesn't generate complaints. That is her incentive. If she wants to undermine him, she could do what you describe -- heck, even if she wants to bring up teaching quality as an issue for whatever reason, she can do it everywhere. But committing to some 3rd party to investigate him based on flimsy evidence? Politically idiotic.

Doing it because one person noticed that some of his students don't follow what he teaches? I mean, what professor doesn't have a myriad of students that don't understand what he is teaching? It isn't even a useful data point.
I get the impression that she's biased against students and towards teachers. In non-mathematical situations, her biases prevent her from thinking logically.

Of course she should be biased against students and towards teachers. Her teachers are her colleagues, and hard to replace. Students are transient visitors, and easy to replace.

That particular colleague could be a useful ally, or just someone who isn't a threat to her.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby achan1058 » Tue Mar 23, 2010 3:46 pm UTC

navigatr85 wrote:Another claim that was made was that the logic developed through studying math can be used in political arguments. I completely disagree, because I have seen the head of my college's math department make terrible mistakes in logic. She is definitely a good mathematician. She has a masters degree in math, and she teaches calculus. But her political logic is terrible. One conversation with her went something like this (names are changed):
Unless your college is based upon teaching instead of research, I see no reason for her to do anything myself neither. At least, not until his name gets so notorious that it would be problematic to keep him. And even if it is, doing anything is likely going to be annoying for her, or worse.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby arkos » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:32 am UTC

When will you need anything you learn in school? With that attitude you might just as well admit that the only thing you're going to need is the credentials you get when it's over.
I feel for you if someone is really forcing you to learn math that you for some reason don't want to learn, but I don't get why anyone would point out mathematics as somehow especially useless. On the contrary, math is probably the most broadly applicable discipline.
But admittedly in school the "whys" of things too often get forgotten, I guess it would be nice if people were reminded of the history of mathematics and not just given numbers to play with.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby notzeb » Fri Mar 26, 2010 5:14 am UTC

Blah, blah, blah...

You'll use it when you're DEAD!
Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­Zµ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«VµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«VµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­ZµkV­ZÕ«ZµjÖ­Zµ«V­jÕ«ZµjÖ­ZÕ«VµjÕ­Z

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Shokk » Sat Mar 27, 2010 4:57 am UTC

Sometimes an understanding of the sort of stuff that gets thrown at people in school is pretty useful for those who are trying to live as autonomous, conscious, free-thinking, individuals.
I imagine not all of it is necessary, but it's darn important to realize when people are trying to BS you with things that you wouldn't understand otherwise. Sometimes, parasitic douchebags (usually entrepreneurs) will wave around Science and Math to make their crap look more reputable, when all they're saying is really just stupidly vague, meaningless, or blatantly false. Sometimes the parasitic douches are corrupt politicians or even just narrow-minded heads of certain interest groups, sometimes the crap happens to be just faulty ideas and concepts or arguments and fear mongering.

[lolmisleading]
Are you aware of the Dihydrogen Monoxide problem? You don't? You have to hear this! It's a chemical with a pH greater than SULFURIC ACID, IT'S PRESENT IN OVER 90% OF OUR WATER SUPPLY, HYDROGEEEN BOOOONDSS! HYDROGEN BOOOOOOONDS! CRAWLING IN MY SKIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN. ( I might have taken that too far)

Did you know that Taco Bell's Cheese is one molecule away from being plastic?
[/lolmisleading]

There's also history, which is good to know when you start seeing bad shit repeat itself and society trends in the same directions.
Back in the day, I imagine you really couldn't fault people for letting history repeat.
But our generation, of all of them, has the LEAST FUCKING EXCUSE.
Not to mention at all the understanding garnered from studying history, which helps to realize that adjectives like "Socialist" and "Fascist" should really only be modifying the same noun in jest. Otherwise the person is obviously just pissing out words that sound 'bad' for some stupid reason.
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby navigatr85 » Tue Mar 30, 2010 12:43 pm UTC

hawkmp4 wrote:I don't see the issue of the filters has anything to do with the mentally retarded. Grow up, please.
I apologize. I was very frustrated at the time. Can you understand my point of view, though? It's very annoying when I try to make a post, and ten of the words in the post change to other words, changing the meaning and/or tone of ten of the sentences. It's also confusing to read someone else's post and see them say that "spirituality is very useful," then later realize that they meant to say "science is very useful." It was inhibiting the conversation. I was actually trying to be funny when I was complaining about the filters. But you're right, the use of the word "retarded," and other such name-calling, is inappropriate.

Yakk wrote:No, they lack mathematical education. Maybe they could solve a quadratic equation: but without being taught it or other related areas of math, it would take them on average a few thousand years to think it up from first principles (and probably longer).
Yakk, I was specifically talking about the apparatus that you linked to earlier. When you responded, you didn't say anything specifically about that apparatus. I agree with you that a person who can't solve a quadratic equation lacks mathematical education. But what is the connection between having a mathematical education and understanding what that device does? Let's say I have a student who has only finished pre-algebra. I think it's possible for that student to understand that device. The student might not be able to have a complete understanding of the physics of the device, but I don't think you'd need to know the physics, in detail, just to determine whether it's a useful device or not.

Yakk wrote:Or wait -- do you mean we teach both the math, and concrete implementations of it? How much time do we spend on concrete stuff -- remember, we already throw "word problems" at students. At what level do we stop providing a foundation for further exploration, and decide "no more! At this point, we go concrete only!"
I agree that it wouldn't make sense to have a sharp divide like that. It wouldn't make sense to exclusively teach pure math for a while, then suddenly stop teaching pure math and start teaching applications. It would be nice if the class could alternate between pure math and applications.

achan1058 wrote:Unless your college is based upon teaching instead of research, I see no reason for her to do anything myself neither.
The college IS based upon teaching instead of research. It's a community college. None of the instructors do any research for the college.

Yakk wrote:That seems politically very smart.
It's interesting that you'd say that. I still disagree with you and the head of the department on that issue. But now that I think about it, it's very possible that her point of view WAS politically smart, and mine wasn't. I finished up a bachelors degree in computer engineering about two years ago, but I have barely any political experience. So it's possible that I'm not good at politics at all. Meanwhile, the head of the math department might have a lot of political savvy from her years of experience as the head. In fact, a few weeks after I had that discussion with the head, I told a friend about the discussion. He told me that I was thinking like an engineer, while the head was thinking like a politician. So maybe, indirectly, this illustrates the point that I was trying to make earlier. A decision that is politically smart might not be smart in a formal logical sense, and vice versa. I took lots of math and engineering classes for my degree, but maybe none of them have developed my ability to make good decisions in political situations.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Yakk » Tue Mar 30, 2010 5:10 pm UTC

navigatr85 wrote:
Yakk wrote:No, they lack mathematical education. Maybe they could solve a quadratic equation: but without being taught it or other related areas of math, it would take them on average a few thousand years to think it up from first principles (and probably longer).
Yakk, I was specifically talking about the apparatus that you linked to earlier. When you responded, you didn't say anything specifically about that apparatus. I agree with you that a person who can't solve a quadratic equation lacks mathematical education. But what is the connection between having a mathematical education and understanding what that device does? Let's say I have a student who has only finished pre-algebra. I think it's possible for that student to understand that device. The student might not be able to have a complete understanding of the physics of the device, but I don't think you'd need to know the physics, in detail, just to determine whether it's a useful device or not.
Well, they could blindly trust the people who do understand how the device works. I mean, the people who understand how the device works could make up some pretty sounding marketing, and either fool the user that they understand it, or they could just say "trust me".

Know if it is snake oil or not? Not without understanding how it works. Most, if not all, people go through life using lots of snake oil products. Most such snake oil is not seriously damaging.

If you want to know something for true, or not, you need to understand the parts of the universe that we actually understand: we call that knowledge science. And the language of much of science is math.
Yakk wrote:Or wait -- do you mean we teach both the math, and concrete implementations of it? How much time do we spend on concrete stuff -- remember, we already throw "word problems" at students. At what level do we stop providing a foundation for further exploration, and decide "no more! At this point, we go concrete only!"
I agree that it wouldn't make sense to have a sharp divide like that. It wouldn't make sense to exclusively teach pure math for a while, then suddenly stop teaching pure math and start teaching applications. It would be nice if the class could alternate between pure math and applications.

Some classes do this. Heck, what do you think word problems are based off of?

In order to do a serious job of this, you'll have to double up the time spent doing math, because right now students coming out of high school are still woefully ignorant of the mathematics they need in technical careers, even with the current cursory coverage of applications not taking up too much time.

That also means finding teachers who are not incompetent at mathematics education, which is a problem: people who are competent at mathematics end up being highly useful in the employment world, which makes it expensive to send them back to hand-hold students in high school. Which is, I suspect, part of the reason why there is a shortage of such teachers.
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Ortus » Mon Apr 05, 2010 12:22 am UTC

Dason wrote:It's quite possible that they'll never use it. You can ask whether that matters though.



Thank you SO much for posting that.
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby navigatr85 » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:15 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Know if it is snake oil or not? Not without understanding how it works. Most, if not all, people go through life using lots of snake oil products. Most such snake oil is not seriously damaging. If you want to know something for true, or not, you need to understand the parts of the universe that we actually understand: we call that knowledge science. And the language of much of science is math.
Let's clarify what we mean here. My understanding of the term "snake oil" is a situation in which a salesman lies about a product in order to sell it. Or maybe the salesman doesn't lie outright, but he uses deceptive language and marketing techniques to make the product seem better than it actually is. If that's not really what you meant by "snake oil", please let me know. In order to determine whether a salesman is lying or not, I don't think it's always necessary for a customer to to fully understand the physics/science of a product, including mathematical descriptions. You probably own a cell phone. Before you bought it, did you take time to learn about the physics of it, like the transmission of electromagnetic waves? Did you solve equations to prove to yourself that the phone really does what the salesmen said it does? No, of course you didn't. You probably did what normal people do: read reviews of phones written by other customers, try out an in-store model before you buy it, and so on.

Can you give me a specific example of a situation in which it would be necessary for a customer to use science, along with higher-level math, to determine if a product is snake oil? By the way, when I say "higher-level math", I mean algebra and above. I can definitely see how some pre-algebra might be useful. And I know what you're thinking, algebra is actually not high-level to you or me. But remember that I'm looking at this from the students' perspective.

navigatr85 wrote:It would be nice if the class could alternate between pure math and applications.
Yakk wrote:Some classes do this. Heck, what do you think word problems are based off of?
Like I was saying in the first post in this thread, most word problems are very contrived. In my opinion, most of the word problems in textbooks don't even fall under the category of "applications". For example, I'd say the ball-throwing problems that I mentioned in my first post are not really an application, because an average person isn't very likely to come upon a situation where he needs to calculate something like that. I guess, in a way, the word problems have to be contrived. For some math concepts that we teach, it's very difficult to come up with a real-life situation that uses that particular math concept AND will be encountered by an average person. But if it is difficult to come up with a way for the average person to use a concept, isn't that a good reason to just remove that concept from the curriculum completely? Note that I'm only talking about removing it from the list of "core" requirements. In other words, removing it from the list of topics that EVERYONE has to know. Courses could still exist which teach these things, but they wouldn't be required for every single student.

Yakk wrote:In order to do a serious job of this, you'll have to double up the time spent doing math, because right now students coming out of high school are still woefully ignorant of the mathematics they need in technical careers, even with the current cursory coverage of applications not taking up too much time.
I think we're in agreement here, somewhat. You seem to be saying that the current system doesn't do a good job of covering applications, but there's just not enough time/effort/resources to do a serious job of fixing it.

I was confused by the last part of Yakk's post. It says that the post was edited by JHVH, who I'm assuming is one of the forum moderators. It looks like that moderator deleted part of Yakk's post, and replaced it with that comment in square brackets. Is that right? I'm curious to know what Yakk wrote before the moderator deleted it. Something related to the discussion about political decisions?

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby achan1058 » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:54 am UTC

navigatr85 wrote:Like I was saying in the first post in this thread, most word problems are very contrived. In my opinion, most of the word problems in textbooks don't even fall under the category of "applications". For example, I'd say the ball-throwing problems that I mentioned in my first post are not really an application, because an average person isn't very likely to come upon a situation where he needs to calculate something like that. I guess, in a way, the word problems have to be contrived. For some math concepts that we teach, it's very difficult to come up with a real-life situation that uses that particular math concept AND will be encountered by an average person. But if it is difficult to come up with a way for the average person to use a concept, isn't that a good reason to just remove that concept from the curriculum completely? Note that I'm only talking about removing it from the list of "core" requirements. In other words, removing it from the list of topics that EVERYONE has to know. Courses could still exist which teach these things, but they wouldn't be required for every single student.
Actually, the real reason why the word problems are contrived is not because they can't come up with real-life situation that uses it AND encountered by an average person. It's they can't come up with real-life situation that uses it AND encountered AND not absurdly hard. I do not think it is very hard to come with with realistic word problems, it's just hard to come up with one that doesn't have dozens of variables. Of course, in real life, most people pretend they don't exist and chooses a very suboptimal solution.

I do agree that there are some branches of mathematics that can be removed, however, but on the other hand, many branches should also be added.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Atmosck » Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:56 am UTC

What's all this fuss about the real world? I do math (and will be a math major next year) because i enjoy it. My parents were thrilled that I'm doing something "more practical" than music, which was my most serious other consideration. I had to explain to them that math is useless, and that's the beauty of it. Most of what I'll learn as a math major is useless to science and engineering, and even actuarial science and cryptology. If a physicist invents a universe where the laws of mechanics are completely different, and calculates the behavior of projectiles and such, just for fun, nobody would care. That doesn't further our understanding of the real world, or serve any practical purpose. The only reason to do that is because it's interesting. And that's why we do math. It can be whatever we want - behave whatever rules we imagine. 2 + 2 doesn't have to equal 4. We can do mod 7 addition, and 2 + 2 = 3, for the purpose of seeing what happens when we do algebra with a different set of rules, just for the hell of it.

It's the same reason we like literature. Fiction can take ideas from the real world, but it's fiction at it's heart, and we read and write it because we enjoy seeing events and worlds and characters that don't exist in the real world - but anything we want can exist in our imagination.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby the tree » Tue Apr 06, 2010 4:25 pm UTC

achan1058 wrote:Actually, the real reason why the word problems are contrived is not because they can't come up with real-life situation that uses it AND encountered by an average person. It's they can't come up with real-life situation that uses it AND encountered AND not absurdly hard. I do not think it is very hard to come with with realistic word problems, it's just hard to come up with one that doesn't have dozens of variables. Of course, in real life, most people pretend they don't exist and chooses a very suboptimal solution.
I'm sure it could be done. "Which of these two routes is shorter?", "if electricity costs this much per KWh and the plug on your television says this, how much is it costing you to leave your television on when you go out?", "how much more fuel will it take than driving this route would normally, when you're transporting some heavy object?". Okay, still a little contrived.

Hows about "your boss wants this, your boss's boss wants that, you're doing the budget - think of something."? Optimisation could be taught a lot earlier on and it's applications are really, really, obvious.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby achan1058 » Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:24 pm UTC

the tree wrote:I'm sure it could be done. "Which of these two routes is shorter?"
The thing is if you present too many "magic values", then you have people like the above who say this is contrived. If you don't, and present them with more natural data, the amount of calculations required to get those magic values can be brutal.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Yakk » Thu Apr 08, 2010 2:11 pm UTC

navigatr85 wrote:Let's clarify what we mean here. My understanding of the term "snake oil" is a situation in which a salesman lies about a product in order to sell it. Or maybe the salesman doesn't lie outright, but he uses deceptive language and marketing techniques to make the product seem better than it actually is. If that's not really what you meant by "snake oil", please let me know. In order to determine whether a salesman is lying or not, I don't think it's always necessary for a customer to to fully understand the physics/science of a product, including mathematical descriptions.

Not just lieing -- I'm including "seller doesn't know their product is garbage".

The rather random case I was pointing out was a (set of devices) to measure a subjects macro metabolic activity while engaging in exercise. Noticing that it "gives bigger numbers when the person is exercising" is easy: determining if the bigger numbers mean anything requires mathematics well above algebra.

And this is in a field that most would consider not that mathematically heavy.

For a more pedestrian example, the specs of a flat screen TV. Understanding them as more than "this number big good, this number small good" helps. Of course, most people stop at that level: "this number bigger gooder, this number smaller gooder".
You probably own a cell phone. Before you bought it, did you take time to learn about the physics of it, like the transmission of electromagnetic waves? Did you solve equations to prove to yourself that the phone really does what the salesmen said it does? No, of course you didn't. You probably did what normal people do: read reviews of phones written by other customers, try out an in-store model before you buy it, and so on.

Nope -- I bought possible snake oil. The phone could actually be a device that allows the police to track my position without my knowledge or permission, as an example of a feature which I honestly have no clue how it works.

Note that my science/math education does give me a far more informed opinion on "does it cause cancer". I'm still trusting experts not to sell me snake oil here, but less than others.

In addition, the pricing plan for the cell phone is far more attackable via mathematics than the mechanics of the cell phone (understanding a cell phone's inner workings requires far more than high school mathematics).

Finally, I buy cell phones as a sheep -- I am not, really, making a decision about how it works. I'm just doing what other people do, and presume that the results of doing so will be similar to the other sheep's results.
[quote[Can you give me a specific example of a situation in which it would be necessary for a customer to use science, along with higher-level math, to determine if a product is snake oil? By the way, when I say "higher-level math", I mean algebra and above. I can definitely see how some pre-algebra might be useful. And I know what you're thinking, algebra is actually not high-level to you or me. But remember that I'm looking at this from the students' perspective.[/quote]
Here are some consumer problems (and thus have wide applicability). "Producer" problems (when you are actually doing something useful for the rest of the humans on earth) will be far more domain specific:
Someone comes to your door offering you a fixed price on electricity.
You are offered 3 different mortgage options when you buy a house. A car. A television set.
You are deciding if you want to buy a geothermal heating/cooling system to replace your oil furnace.
A news report makes any use of statistics, at all. Is the news spewing bullshit?
A news report talks about nuclear waste management and half lives. Is the news spewing bullshit?
A doctor wants to use radioactive tracers to diagnose something. Do you consent?
A health care provider makes a claim. Is the health care provider spewing bullshit? How can you tell?
Murder rate changes. Is it a crime wave?
Do you do X, or Y, or Z, to reduce your taxes?
You are offered stock options in exchange for a lower salary. Is it worth it?
What percent of your investments do you put into stocks vs bonds?
An investment advisor says you should buy X and sell Y. Is the advisor right?
You watch a financial analysis television show for a year. Does the show contain any useful information?
How much time should you spend worrying about a given financial question?
Someone shows you a way to win at a gambling game. Are they telling the truth?
You are offered two different, reasonably complex pricing options to do two different, yet similar things. Compare them. Determine when one is better than the other. Catch your own mistakes.

As noted, these are consumer/pleb oriented. If you have active control over something that matters (ie, you are more than a wage slave), more applications can show up, but they will be more narrow to the domain.

In many of the above cases, you can go the sheep route (do what everyone else does), the trusting fool way (find an expert and trust the expert), the gut feeling route, etc.

navigatr85 wrote:Like I was saying in the first post in this thread, most word problems are very contrived. In my opinion, most of the word problems in textbooks don't even fall under the category of "applications".

Quite often they are really, really easy problems. They are attempting to stress the math, instead of using math you are presumably mastered last year and doing applications with it.

Doing both a hard problem, and new and hard math, at the same time is hard.
For example, I'd say the ball-throwing problems that I mentioned in my first post are not really an application, because an average person isn't very likely to come upon a situation where he needs to calculate something like that.

Ball-throwing comes from the real-world application of aiming ballistic weapons, by the way. This was and is a major low-end application of the calculus.

Interestingly, American infantry mortars have computers that do this for you. This increases the price (and lowers the reliability) of the mortar significantly, but allows a mathematically illiterate person to use the mortar.
I guess, in a way, the word problems have to be contrived. For some math concepts that we teach, it's very difficult to come up with a real-life situation that uses that particular math concept AND will be encountered by an average person. But if it is difficult to come up with a way for the average person to use a concept, isn't that a good reason to just remove that concept from the curriculum completely? Note that I'm only talking about removing it from the list of "core" requirements. In other words, removing it from the list of topics that EVERYONE has to know. Courses could still exist which teach these things, but they wouldn't be required for every single student.

First, core math education doesn't include anything like calculus. Algebra requirements are exceedingly trivial to get a high school diploma.

Here is what you need for a high school diploma in Ontario:
http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/graduate.html
# 3 credits in mathematics (1 credit in Grade 11 or 12)

So here is the highest level of mathematics that a high school diploma requires:
Grade 11
Course Name: Mathematics for Work and Everyday Life
Course Type: Workplace
Course Code: MEL3E
Prerequisite: Grade 9 Principles of Mathematics, Academic, or Grade 9 Foundations of Mathematics, Applied, or a Grade 10 Mathematics LDCC (locally developed compulsory credit) course


Here are the topics covered:
A. Earning and Purchasing
B. Saving, Investing, and Borrowing
C. Transportation and Travel

This course enables students to broaden their understanding of mathematics as it is applied in the workplace and daily life. Students will solve problems associated with earning money, paying taxes, and making purchases; apply calculations of simple and compound interest in saving, investing, and borrowing; and calculate the costs of transportation and travel in a variety of situations. Students will consolidate their mathematical skills as they solve problems and communicate their thinking.

Of course, someone taking a university bound course is expected to be able to figure that stuff out while learning the foundation for even more advanced math later on.
I think we're in agreement here, somewhat. You seem to be saying that the current system doesn't do a good job of covering applications, but there's just not enough time/effort/resources to do a serious job of fixing it.

No, I'm saying that covering applications heavily is a cost. Applying math you have mastered isn't that hard of a problem: in effect, covering applications is about hand-holding and providing motivation to the student.

There are non-academic streams that do such hand-holding (at least in the local curricula), but they move far slower.
I was confused by the last part of Yakk's post. It says that the post was edited by JHVH, who I'm assuming is one of the forum moderators. It looks like that moderator deleted part of Yakk's post, and replaced it with that comment in square brackets. Is that right? I'm curious to know what Yakk wrote before the moderator deleted it. Something related to the discussion about political decisions?

No, moderator text is in red.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby the tree » Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:25 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Here are some consumer problems (and thus have wide applicability).
[...]
Some of those are really, really difficult though. And most people survive not really bothering with them.
Yakk wrote:"Producer" problems (when you are actually doing something useful for the rest of the humans on earth) will be far more domain specific:
Oh, I once tried to sell prime numbers to some fifteen year olds with their application to high end cryptography - I have never seen blanker faces. In retrospect I should have just said, sometimes you'll need to divide a couple of big numbers, this makes life slightly easier. Trying to appeal with anything producer specific is risky because in any given high school class, only a small minority are even a tiny bit likely to go on to pursue any given career.
achan1058 wrote:
the tree wrote:I'm sure it could be done. "Which of these two routes is shorter?"
The thing is if you present too many "magic values", then you have people like the above who say this is contrived. If you don't, and present them with more natural data, the amount of calculations required to get those magic values can be brutal.
Calculators, modelling applications, spreadsheets, whatever. It's worth understanding that no-one does that kind of thing by hand, ever.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Yakk » Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:34 pm UTC

the tree wrote:
Yakk wrote:Here are some consumer problems (and thus have wide applicability).
[...]
Some of those are really, really difficult though. And most people survive not really bothering with them.
Oh, I didn't realize the goal was "survival".

Clearly being able to read is superfluous. Illiterate people survive -- heck, drug addicted, illiterate, insane people have life expectancies that are non-zero!

And yes, some of those are difficult to solve completely. To have an idea of what is going on requires high school math. Mastering some of them could give you a Nobel prize. Others are things that people decide many times in their lives, and end up making pretty crappy decisions about because they are utterly and completely unprepared for the decision.

Think about it -- a good 50% of western society owns a home. The value of modern homes is in multiples of annual salary (let alone disposable income). People who are mathematically illiterate are easy to exploit in this process, because they don't have the tools to understand the bill of goods the mortgage broker is selling them.

This is a situation where a mistake can result in you burning and throwing away the results of multiple years of full time labour. And you are clueless if you are mathematically illiterate.

Society is set up so that peons can be shuffled between peon jobs without them ever having any real agency over their lives, so you can survive without having the knowledge required to take control over your life. This doesn't mean it doesn't suck to be a peon.

This is the same reason why it is very important to understand history and politics -- because politicians will sell you a bill of goods if you don't understand the context, and you'll be a political peon.
Yakk wrote:"Producer" problems (when you are actually doing something useful for the rest of the humans on earth) will be far more domain specific:
Oh, I once tried to sell prime numbers to some fifteen year olds with their application to high end cryptography - I have never seen blanker faces. In retrospect I should have just said, sometimes you'll need to divide a couple of big numbers, this makes life slightly easier. Trying to appeal with anything producer specific is risky because in any given high school class, only a small minority are even a tiny bit likely to go on to pursue any given career.

Yes.

If your career only deals with inter personal interactions that have no connection to reality beyond the what people feel (and that includes any career that involves money), then mathematics will be mainly useful in your non-producing life.

There are career paths for the mathematically illiterate. Most of them are really crappy paths. (And yes, to an idiot "movie star" and "sports star" are great career paths, but the average actor and professional sports player salaries make being a garbage man look like being Donald Trump -- and the ones that make it to being a professional actor/sports player are already the creme of the crop!)
Calculators, modelling applications, spreadsheets, whatever. It's worth understanding that no-one does that kind of thing by hand, ever.

People who only use calculators, modelling applications and spreadsheets without understanding how to author the spreadsheet are people who can be replaced by a very small perl script.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Sir Novelty Fashion » Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:59 pm UTC

Personally, I hated maths at school. Chiefly because I was useless at it. I can scarcely remember what a quadratic equation looks like. That doesn't mean I don't recognise a con when I see one. On the other hand, when it's your money on the line, it's amazing how the mind sharpens... :P

Seriously, though, Yakk's point is a thoroughly valid one. It's not so much about what kind of information is being taught as what structures for thought are being imparted.T

Taking another example, let's look at Latin. The primary practical applications of learning Latin outside academic ancient history and the Vatican are approximately nil. The number of times in your adult life you will need to be able to spot an ablative absolute can probably be counted safely on the fingers of one hand, if that many are indeed needed.

What a grounding in Latin does give are less concrete problem-solving abilities. If nothing else, winging it through a translation you've not prepared will teach some basic ability to break-down seeming-nonsense and work through it. I'm being a bit facetious, but a Latin sentence - particularly at a more advanced level* - requires the development of analytical skills to be able to be able to comprehend the links which connect the sentence together - and yes, that sometimes means just going through all the possibilities, one word at a time, until you find something which fits together properly.

But that, in itself, is immensely useful as a skill; particularly given the present tendency in English to view grammar as something that happens to other people.

There's a score of other reasons to do with learning other languages, but the basic methodological/analytical approaches it instills are probably the most important for the purposes of this debate. Besides which, there's just no such thing as a lossless translation.

*Though not so advanced as, say, Tacitus - at which point, the logic of the sentence falls away completely :P

Sock wrote:If you are going to argue use and whether or not a particular thing is pointless consider your own life. Not everything has purpose, as defined by society. "Man is born, man dies, and it's all vanity."

"All art is quite useless."

But as you touch on in your post, Wilde's point wasn't that all art is valueless.
The art of advertisement, after the American manner, has introduced into all our life such a lavish use of superlatives, that no standard of value whatever is intact.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby achan1058 » Wed Apr 14, 2010 1:44 am UTC

the tree wrote:
achan1058 wrote:
the tree wrote:I'm sure it could be done. "Which of these two routes is shorter?"
The thing is if you present too many "magic values", then you have people like the above who say this is contrived. If you don't, and present them with more natural data, the amount of calculations required to get those magic values can be brutal.
Calculators, modelling applications, spreadsheets, whatever. It's worth understanding that no-one does that kind of thing by hand, ever.
Back of the envelope calculations to get the magnitude of the answer, spotting input errors, as well as debugging programming errors.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby the tree » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:41 am UTC

Yakk wrote:
the tree wrote:
Yakk wrote:Here are some consumer problems (and thus have wide applicability).
[...]
Some of those are really, really difficult though. And most people survive not really bothering with them.
Oh, I didn't realize the goal was "survival".
By survive I meant be fairly healthy for a reasonably long life without ever going bankrupt or winding up in prison. Manage, might have been the better word. I find it's pretty difficult to get people to care about when they are being screwed over. I'm sure you'll have had this conversation at some point in your life:
"doing this will save you an awful lot of bother,time and effort."
"yeah but it seems like to much bother."
"..."
You really need to get across quite how much ignorance can cost people.
Yakk wrote:
the tree wrote:Calculators, modelling applications, spreadsheets, whatever. It's worth understanding that no-one does that kind of thing by hand, ever.

People who only use calculators, modelling applications and spreadsheets without understanding how to author the spreadsheet are people who can be replaced by a very small perl script.
That was kind of my point, how to use all the above to it's full potential, should probably be taught. Alongside:
achan1058 wrote:Back of the envelope calculations to get the magnitude of the answer, spotting input errors, as well as debugging programming errors.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby G0dzuki » Thu Apr 15, 2010 4:59 am UTC

Certain subjects like physics, statistics, or politics... I don't view as something that I need to know in order to properly execute my career, but more for intellectual improvement. I enjoy those odd subject... not that I need to know them but because I just simply enjoy learning.
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby navigatr85 » Sun Apr 25, 2010 11:03 pm UTC

Atmosck wrote:What's all this fuss about the real world? I do math (and will be a math major next year) because i enjoy it.
I enjoy math too. :) But some people hate it. In the current system, higher-level math is required for every college student, including those who enjoy it and those who hate it. I don't think it should be that way.

the tree wrote:I'm sure it could be done. "Which of these two routes is shorter?"
achan1058 wrote:The thing is if you present too many "magic values", then you have people like the above who say this is contrived. If you don't, and present them with more natural data, the amount of calculations required to get those magic values can be brutal.
Actually, I wouldn't say that's contrived. If a problem is asking about shorter routes, and if the problem says "It takes 10 minutes to drive from Somerville to the I-95 exit," then I guess you could say that the 10 minutes is a "magic value". But I think it'd be fine to include that in a problem. When I said contrived, I meant that the entire situation is contrived, meaning something that the average person is unlikely to encounter after they're done with school.

Yakk wrote:First, core math education doesn't include anything like calculus. Algebra requirements are exceedingly trivial to get a high school diploma.
OK, thanks for that info. :) Earlier, I wasn't aware that the minumum math requirements for a high school diploma are so low. I think that's actually a good thing, although you might say it's a bad thing. But what I find interesting is that society strongly encourages college degrees. People look down their nose at a person who has no college degree, and think "you're nothing," or something along those lines. Employers are more likely to hire a person with a college degree than a person with only a high school diploma. It's kind of like saying, "In order for me to respect you and think that you're worth hiring, you have to learn a lot of math that you'll rarely use after you finish learning it."

Yakk wrote:No, I'm saying that covering applications heavily is a cost. Applying math you have mastered isn't that hard of a problem: in effect, covering applications is about hand-holding and providing motivation to the student.
"Hand-holding" is a term that sounds very negative. Often, I work with my math students one-on-one. I'll sit next to them and guide them through a problem, letting them do most of the work for the problem on their own paper, and then helping them along if they get stuck on a particular part of it. Would you call that "hand-holding"? If so, then you're using a negative-sounding term for something that's actually a very good thing. That sort of guidance is a good way for students to learn.

Also, you said applications provide motivation to the student, but you're saying we shouldn't increase the coverage of applications. Are you saying we SHOULDN'T try to provide more motivation to the students? More motivation would also be a good thing.

Yakk wrote:No, moderator text is in red.
Oh, ok, sorry. I just realized that that every single one of your posts has that text at the bottom, and it's actually your forum signature. I feel dumb now. :D
But anyway, I'm still confused about that part of your post. You wrote "if A doesn't prove it, ~A does!" Were you agreeing with me and saying that I proved my point? Or were you disagreeing with me and saying that you had proved me wrong? Or were you making fun of me?

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Yakk » Mon Apr 26, 2010 7:00 pm UTC

navigatr85 wrote:
Yakk wrote:First, core math education doesn't include anything like calculus. Algebra requirements are exceedingly trivial to get a high school diploma.
OK, thanks for that info. :) Earlier, I wasn't aware that the minumum math requirements for a high school diploma are so low. I think that's actually a good thing, although you might say it's a bad thing. But what I find interesting is that society strongly encourages college degrees. People look down their nose at a person who has no college degree, and think "you're nothing," or something along those lines. Employers are more likely to hire a person with a college degree than a person with only a high school diploma. It's kind of like saying, "In order for me to respect you and think that you're worth hiring, you have to learn a lot of math that you'll rarely use after you finish learning it."

You don't need math to get a college degree. For many programs, sure -- but if you want to take a community college course of study in English history, you won't need Calculus I don't think.

Of course, people tend not to hire English majors either.
Yakk wrote:No, I'm saying that covering applications heavily is a cost. Applying math you have mastered isn't that hard of a problem: in effect, covering applications is about hand-holding and providing motivation to the student.
"Hand-holding" is a term that sounds very negative. Often, I work with my math students one-on-one. I'll sit next to them and guide them through a problem, letting them do most of the work for the problem on their own paper, and then helping them along if they get stuck on a particular part of it. Would you call that "hand-holding"? If so, then you're using a negative-sounding term for something that's actually a very good thing. That sort of guidance is a good way for students to learn.

No, the student learning the material without the extra one-on-one time is better -- hand-holding by someone else tends to be very expensive, especially when you are talking about someone with 25+ years of education doing the hand-holding. Thus hand-holding is a negative.

Hand-holding is not a good way to educate students, because it requires a really low student:teacher ratio, and teachers are not cheap. Peer-based hand-holding can be useful (because peers are cheap, and can learn and become better at the subject when they teach someone else the subject). It is not feasible to teach people large amounts of material rapidly if every student requires hand-holding without spending extraordinary amounts of resources on it, or teaching the subject at such a basic level that you can hire people at or near minimum wage to do the hand holding (at 6 hours*5 days*40 weeks*10$, that comes to 12,000$ per student (note that 10$ includes overhead, I'm aware that US min wage is lower than that) with no prep time). And paying someone who spent 5+ post-secondary years learning how to educate less than 10$ per hour is a great way to have a shortage of qualified teachers in any domain that has direct economic applications.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm sure some hand holding is good. But students should be weaned from it.

People addicted to hand-holding and unable to self-motivate to learn and learn how to get around barriers are less useful, because they ... well, continue to require hand-holding when there are tasks to be done to make this world a better place, above and beyond the astronomical costs it requires.
Also, you said applications provide motivation to the student, but you're saying we shouldn't increase the coverage of applications. Are you saying we SHOULDN'T try to provide more motivation to the students? More motivation would also be a good thing.

We should teach students to be motivated without having their hands held. Already, western education is brutally slow.

For students that fail to self motivate, having an application stream (that proceeds at half pace) can be used to prevent those students from being completely innumerate. Teaching them to the level of being able to get a college degree in any kind of technical subject, or expecting them to be able to survive a rigorous university course load without the ability to self motivate without being hand held, is not very likely. It is possible that they are really enthusiastic (and don't need hand holding) in another subject, in which case they could probably handle the academic load of a decent post-secondary school in that subject area.

At the point where the student can only reach basic high-school levels of education by hand-holding, that student is more expensive to educate than their peers for less result. Barring infinite resources, society quite honestly writes them off. There are limits to what a school system can practically do to throw resources at a particular student.

I'm sure schools can do better than they do right now, but that is true of any reasonably complex situation.

Yes, this is really harsh. Probably too harsh. And yes, it is a great thing to hold the hand of a student, and then teach them to walk on their own: but practically, the return on investment from teaching a student who requires one tenth the care to learn faster is often much greater to the rest of society.
Oh, ok, sorry. I just realized that that every single one of your posts has that text at the bottom, and it's actually your forum signature. I feel dumb now. :D
But anyway, I'm still confused about that part of your post. You wrote "if A doesn't prove it, ~A does!" Were you agreeing with me and saying that I proved my point? Or were you disagreeing with me and saying that you had proved me wrong? Or were you making fun of me?

I was dismissing your position without disproving it, because I was tired of the argument.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby KestrelLowing » Thu Apr 29, 2010 6:29 pm UTC

I just was pointed to this, and it deals specifically why math is taught. Specifically, it says that math higher than arithmetic is pretty much never used in most jobs, but he does defend why math should be taught anyway - basically because it teaches a method of thinking.

http://www.ams.org/notices/201005/rtx100500608p.pdf

Give it a read, I enjoyed it.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby soraos21 » Sun May 16, 2010 9:16 am UTC

Apparently, I wasn't clear enough in my previous post. What I MEANT to say is that if someone wants to be an engineer, then they go to the counselor and tell them. The counselor would then go to a job requirements site and look up what skills/knowledge that child (in this case, a sophomore) would need for that particular job. They would also look to see if those same necessary classes are available in that particular school district. If one or more(up to three) of the classes are not in that district, but are in a neighboring district, then either the teacher would be brought to the student, or the other way around. If more than three of the classes are not within the current school district, then the student would be moved to the nearest district that has those classes. Another example: A student(again, a sophomore) goes up to the counselor and says that he wants to be a chef in a restaurant. The counselor looks up what classes the student would need and writes them down(i.e. Home Ec, memorization(for memorizing amount of what to put in where and when), etc.). Then, the counselor enrolls the student in those same classes so the student will have what they will need. And NO, I don't mean vocational schools... THIS NEEDS TO BE IMPLEMENTED IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS!!!!
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Jorpho » Sun May 16, 2010 2:51 pm UTC

soraos21 wrote:What I MEANT to say is that if someone wants to be an engineer, then they go to the counselor and tell them. The counselor would then go to a job requirements site and look up what skills/knowledge that child (in this case, a sophomore) would need for that particular job.
"Engineer" doesn't come anywhere close to describing a particular job. Nor does it seem likely that the typical sophomore would have his life planned out to the extent where he would be able to name anything more particular.
If one or more(up to three) of the classes are not in that district, but are in a neighboring district, then either the teacher would be brought to the student, or the other way around. If more than three of the classes are not within the current school district, then the student would be moved to the nearest district that has those classes.
That would be terribly expensive and inconvenient for all parties involved.
memorization(for memorizing amount of what to put in where and when)
It is difficult to conceive of a profession where such study skills would not be important.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby unus vox » Mon May 17, 2010 8:08 pm UTC

A wealth of information and opinions have been posted thus far, so I'm not sure if my post will contribute anything. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to add my two cents.

First off, I agree that some of the curriculum in secondary school has little to no direct relevance in the real world. I won't even try to pretend that quadratic equations are more applicable to everyday life than, say, basic literacy or a sound understanding of one's government. I'll even admit that most of the content learned in high school is forgotten, whether after graduation or a week after a test. The fact of the matter is that school is topical, and these topics can be awfully specific and trite. However, I would also like to posit that the relevance of the topic has no relation to the importance of its associated skill.

High school, and school in general, is not about the content so much as it is skill building. And while the work, tests, and (in some cases) state assessments would have you believe otherwise, I assure you that the curriculum is only a stepping stone in the process of higher level thinking. Solving a mathematical equation is not just about finding a numerical answer to a specific instance; it hones one's logical capabilities and ability to solve complex problems through processes. Reading a book in English is not just a matter of said book's plot and themes; it sharpens one's critical thinking skills, linguistics and literacy, and rhetoric. Historical events are not just a lesson in themselves; they allows us to see common threads in a larger picture and derive thematic meaning from them.

One may argue that if teachers wished to teach these skills, they may as well just teach them sans meticulous details. But, while it would be great to simply convey a skill-set, the topical content is a necessary method with which we practice. The content is the vehicle, not the destination. Look at it this way: If you want to build the muscle in your biceps, you would engage in various exercises that strengthen the muscles there -- curls, pull ups, bench presses, push ups, etc. You don't stop to wonder, "When will I ever need to bench press something in real life?" because you understand that the exercise is a means to strengthening your muscles in general. School is effectively the same: a means to strengthen the essential muscles of your brain.

A rapidly growing theory in pedagogy is that our intelligence is divided into various sections, and that everyone could be described as having multiple intelligences. Some of these include verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spacial, bodily-kinesthetic, and musical-rhythmic. Therefore, to exercise these intelligences is to become as wholly intelligent as our potential allows. Again, this is not about reading a book from 1943 or remembering the Pythagorean Theorum... this is about how the book or theorum will aid us in becoming better, faster, stronger in their associated skills.

Now, why don't we simply allow students to choose which skills will best aid them in their lives, and choose respective classes? The long answer involves a diatribe about being well rounded and that all skills will be used to some extent, and I'd rather stop typing now. The short answer is thus: 14-year-olds can't make consequential decisions if their lives depended on it (which they do).
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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby navigatr85 » Thu May 20, 2010 3:26 pm UTC

Yakk, you seem to be completely misunderstanding the idea of one-on-one attention. I'm not talking about constant, non-stop, individual attention. Here's the way I do it: I lecture during the beginning of class, and then I give my students assignments to do, in class, for the remainder of the time. Then, while they're doing those assignments, I walk around the room and check on them one-by-one, and help them if they need it. Also, I announce that I CAN'T help them out in any way during a test.

Yakk wrote:(at 6 hours*5 days*40 weeks*10$, that comes to 12,000$ per student (note that 10$ includes overhead, I'm aware that US min wage is lower than that) with no prep time).
This calculation implies that you're talking about six hours of one-on-one attention, each school day, for each student. I agree, that would be a very bad thing. But that's not at all what I was talking about. I'm just referring to a situation like the one I described above; the teacher walking around the room and helping students if they need it.

Yakk wrote:People addicted to hand-holding and unable to self-motivate to learn and learn how to get around barriers are less useful, because they ... well, continue to require hand-holding....
I agree, it's bad for someone to be addicted to that one-on-one attention. But I often give individual attention to my students, and I can tell that they're not addicted to it. Yakk, I'm curious, what teaching experience do you have? Have you tried working one-on-one with students?

Anyway, I feel like this is getting very far off-topic. Earlier, you were saying that covering applications is about hand-holding. Then, you proceeded to describe hand-holding as a system that gives every student 6 hours a day of individual attention. I don't think you actually meant to say that covering applications is equivalent to giving every student 6 hours a day of individual attention. Can you please clarify what you meant when you said that covering applications is about hand-holding?

Yakk wrote:We should teach students to be motivated without having their hands held.
That's a good thought. How do you propose we teach students to be self-motivated? In the current school system in the United States, it seems like people TRY to encourage students to be self-motivated. The way they try to encourage that is by basically saying, "You're going to get some assignments to do. You will have to do them on your own, without ANY help. If you don't complete these assignments, you won't get a college degree, and, as a result, you won't get a good job." So it seems that the current system tries to encourage self-motivation just through the fear of a bad future. But that doesn't seem to be working. A lot of students in the United States are NOT self-motivated.

Yakk wrote:I was dismissing your position without disproving it, because I was tired of the argument.
OK, you're confusing me again. What does it mean to be tired of an argument? By the way, did you see the other thread I started in this forum to continue the discussion about observing teachers? If so, please post in it, because I'd like to hear more of your thoughts on that matter.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby Yakk » Thu May 20, 2010 9:21 pm UTC

navigatr85 wrote:This calculation implies that you're talking about six hours of one-on-one attention, each school day, for each student. I agree, that would be a very bad thing. But that's not at all what I was talking about. I'm just referring to a situation like the one I described above; the teacher walking around the room and helping students if they need it.

Sure. Except now you are mixing (A) supervising students do work without you really needing to be there, and (B) spending one-on-one time with students. And apparently you are spending a good chunk of the time on that second stage.

Do you see how it would be better if you didn't have to be there to get the students to work on the assignment, if they could self-motivate and come to you with problems? They you could teach between 20% and 100% more students (or even more, if you then allow for larger classrooms), and progress at the same rate.
Yakk, I'm curious, what teaching experience do you have? Have you tried working one-on-one with students?

I've taught people concepts (in mathematics) via one-on-one instruction. It is quite effective in terms of student time to material learned: it isn't all that effective in terms of teacher time to material learned compared to a large lecture hall.

My complaint isn't that one-on-one isn't effective, it is that it is inherently expensive. There are many ways to improve education that are not cheap?
Anyway, I feel like this is getting very far off-topic. Earlier, you were saying that covering applications is about hand-holding. Then, you proceeded to describe hand-holding as a system that gives every student 6 hours a day of individual attention. I don't think you actually meant to say that covering applications is equivalent to giving every student 6 hours a day of individual attention. Can you please clarify what you meant when you said that covering applications is about hand-holding?
Teaching each student as an individual tutor (given sufficient mastery of the subject and the like) with full time instruction will teach that student the material faster than most education systems I've experienced in the western world. There is a cost-benefit trade off.

Spending 50% of the time in class covering applications might be more effective. But it quite literally would reduce the amount of material you could cover by 50% in a given amount of instruction time, compared to students who don't cover applications (which, as far as people have claimed in this thread, are used to motivate students more than anything else), unless those applications where "hidden advanced topics" (which is really hard to pull off well -- the bad cases include having pre-calc students manipulate expressions that "look like" the definition of the limit to get them familiar with it... heh).

If you ignore costs, bad ideas look good.
That's a good thought. How do you propose we teach students to be self-motivated? In the current school system in the United States, it seems like people TRY to encourage students to be self-motivated. The way they try to encourage that is by basically saying, "You're going to get some assignments to do. You will have to do them on your own, without ANY help. If you don't complete these assignments, you won't get a college degree, and, as a result, you won't get a good job." So it seems that the current system tries to encourage self-motivation just through the fear of a bad future. But that doesn't seem to be working. A lot of students in the United States are NOT self-motivated.

The United States, from the start of elementary school to the start of high school, pretty much engages in social promotion. What happens to you year-by-year is rarely a function of how you do academically -- academic achievement determines very little of what your life is like. At high school, there is the start of the possibility of failure, but even there schools are designed to avoid failure. Even the material you are presented is designed that simple rote memorization can generate near perfect results, and questions asked all tend to be "easy".

Students rarely interact with peer groups who are ahead/behind their own, so if there are long or even medium term consequences to academic failure or success, they never experience them first hand until the point where it occurs is passed.

They are basically stuck in a zero-sum social game where the only players of consequence are their peers (as their teachers and the like are referees with little power and disappear after a few months or at most a year or two). I find it surprising that as many children care about academics as actually do, given that kind of environment.

By the end of Elementary school, I'd expect most students to be a write-off motivation wise in high school. The best I'd hope for are a handful of students who like following arbitrary rules (which academics provides them with), or who seek parental approval (and get it via grades), or who identify with being clever.

So pulling off what you describe -- building an association between academics and short-term direct consequences or applications -- in elementary school, with a somewhat random reward schedule and back-off of term between the academic success and the payoff, is probably a good thing. (Can you tell that composition isn't my strong suit?) Basically, train students into enjoying academic success.

By the end of high school, those students who have figured out how to motivate themselves shouldn't be held back by those students who still need hand-holding. You are trying to prepare these people for the rest of the world, and by university and employment you are going to have much better returns if you can grasp abstract long-term rewards and motivate yourself using them.
OK, you're confusing me again. What does it mean to be tired of an argument?

You have never gotten tired of an argument? Not wanted to engage in it any more? Found it boring?
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: "When am I going to use this?"

Postby hnooch » Thu May 27, 2010 4:08 am UTC

I'm a bit late to this conversation... Yakk, is your description of the incentives faced in elementary/high school based on personal observation, and is there somewhere I can read more about it? I'm fascinated by this stuff.


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