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Thread: Teaching Math
face BY : Wagner Lipnharski email (remove spam text)

Russell McMahon wrote:
>> How does academic fashion come and go, and why? Perhaps because only
>> government can screw things up, degrade and dominate those it is
>> responsible to, and profit from it, as long as no competing entity
>> is around to punish it.
> The interesting thing is that, both here in NZ and in the US people
> read this and KNOW it is more or less true.
> Note that it is not academic fashion, it is social engineering that
> largely drives it.

Other interesting point, is that while our US school's math still going
south, other 3rd World countries still teaching "regular math" and their
children still being very welcome in US to become teachers in math,
physics, economy and science.  My daughter (12) in 6th grade never heard
about logarithm or sine in an US public school, but she did learn it at
home. When I was 12 in Brazil I was playing with log tables (heavy books)
and solving puzzles with a plastic math slider (Pentel?).  It is amazing
that math is so vast, that during the last 2 years in school they still
doing the same old 12x12 exercises, to tell you the truth, it is a shame.
Looks like they are just leveling all students by the weak, so nobody is
left behind.  When she was at 2nd grade she already knew the 12x12 table by
memory, not from school, but from me, and she felt very competitive and

It seems that people just forgot that children are just small, not stupid.
You go to any K-Mart or Wal-Mart and stick $23.00 in dollar bills to the
cashier to pay a $13 purchase, the cashier gets lost, she will first return
your "extra" $3.00, and then will provide you the $7.00 change... it is a
complete and insane shame. What is it? No one "expects" that a cashier
attendant should do mind math? Come on, simple math should be done by
everyone, since 2nd or 3rd grade, and not only economy masters, accountants
or teachers.  You don't need to study 15 years of math to recognize $23 in
a $13 purchase means you are helping the change and her job.  Just as a
test, I did it several times in the same week, in several stores and gas
stations - the most common talk was "oh, you gave more (money) than you
need"...  You see, for them, the stupid WAS ME!, and probably they were

So, if I can calculate the impedance of a transistor by mind, without a
calculator, what this makes me? a math-super-hero? an all-star-bright
scientist? a complete nerd?  Should I be nominated to some Nobel Prize? No!
a simple person that did learn things to have a better and easier life.

I wonder what daily crosses the mind of someone that "needs to think" about
how much is 3 times 5 or what is the 5th letter of the alphabet, or where
is the north (with a shine sun in the sky at 6pm), or what is the rotation
to screw a garden hose, or to sharpen a pencil.

It is amazing how many dumb and know nothing people is around.  Most of
them have 5 years of university, believe it or not - most of them remember
only what means "buenos dias" from almost 2 years of Spanish learning -
most of them have not a single clue where is Constantinople - most of them
just ask for help to replace a flat tire, they can wait 4 hours in the sun
to get that help - most of them simply don't know how many zeroes go to
write one billion or a trillion - most of them never heard about "octanes"
even after 3 years of chemical at school - most of them have no idea if
Mercury is closer to the Sun than Earth - most of them think "Sputnik" is a
rock band's name - most of them think Neil Armstrong is some sports
player - lots of them think the composer Bethowen still alive - if asked to
choose between Paco Rabane or Moshe Daian, they will choose Rabane as the
Mona Lisa's painter.

As you can see, math problem is just the tip of the iceberg.  If your
culture can't learn math, it is just because the whole system below the sea
level is horrendous and doesn't give any base to learn anything else. I
could use math as the learning indicator, if your math is bad, there is a
enourmous chance you don't have a minimum idea what means hemoglobulin or
what is the speed of sound.

Of course you can't label people by the knowledge, but you can predict how
a person is able to solve life problems by himself based on the ability to
answer how much is 75% of 200 Dollars without using a calculator.

Kids are kids in every country.  There is no CHESS DNA in kids borning in
the old soviet countries, at 10 years old they are almost chess world
champions, and they are proud of it. Much more than adults, kids have a
natural hunger for knowledge, and we must feed them with everything we can,
if not, we will propagating stupidity to the upcoming generations.  At
least my kids know what means "prime numbers and know how to recognize
some - all their school friends have no idea what means "prime".

What is missing?


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