Thursday, February 01, 2007

Math Is So 1987

One pet peeve of mine is how our society treats math. It's weirdly undervalued and considered too complex all at the same time. Hopefully some examples will help enlighten my point. As a disclaimer, I have degrees in math and economics from The University of Michigan. It's possible I'm just showing off my bias but I really don't think so.

In college, it amazed me the pre-reqs they had within the liberal arts school. I had to complete 4 semesters of Spanish but needed only the most rudimentary knowledge of math to get a liberal arts degree. I understand the value in pre-reqs, especially for the college student unsure of what to major in. And I also understand an English major has no use for Advanced Calculus. However, there really should be some middle ground. I believe a functional knowledge of statistics is essential to be an intelligent human being. I'm just talking about understanding thinks like means and standard errors and confidence intervals. It's almost impossible to understand the news without it. And some rudimentary pre-Calculus would do wonders for people; at least more than my Spanish has ever done. Instead it seems people get scared of the idea of numbers. But that's my point. Most of my suggestions are rather basic and with at most the same amount of time I devoted to Spanish could be understood by a functioning college student. Instead we have a society of people who can't comprehend even the most basic situations, which is frightening if we aspire to be informed and accountable.

While watching game shows I'm come to the conclusion most people are math illiterate. Whether Millionaire or that Bob Saget show, I'm startled everytime a simple math question is asked. Better yet, I'm surprised whenever they use a help to answer the question. These questions almost always involve basic multiplication or division. And we as a society apparently need help to answer these questions. This too is frightening. No wonder people get confused so easily whenever numbers are mentioned. It's fairly easy to manipulate numbers even when the audience is savvy - it's like shooting dead fish with a laser pointed gun in a sandwich bag when they are math illiterate.

And don't even get me started on math pre-schoolers. I hope to elaborate at another time but here's a teaser - economics gets more complicated that ECON 101. To argue everything in ECON 101 terms is such a pet peeve of mine.


Blogger Mike K said...

Math is so over-rated. I think most problems can be solved by using faith based reasoning.

Behold! 2+4=16 Why? Because I have faith that 6 will marry a dominant 1 and the union will be complete. If you question my logic then you are a heretic!

LOL. No, but seriously math is a wonderful way to give your brain a work out. Sure it is challenging, but it can be really rewarding too. I'm not just talking monetarily either although that is a huge benefit. Lets just say studying in a math related field, you can expect to start out making 50-65K. Not too bad!

2/01/2007 01:24:00 PM  

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