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Four years ago, I wrote a diary in response to something that the Washington Post's Richard Cohen wrote that I found trite (concerning a high school student dropping out after failing to pass a required algebra course). The part that troubled me was his implying that (for a man-of-letters) high-school mathematics was unnecessary: "Most of math can now be done by a computer or a calculator. On the other hand, no computer can write a column or even a thank-you note".

The comments on the diary I wrote went off into a heated discussion about education standards (which is why I won't link to it here). But my point was that (1) while computation of already-stated formulas are certainly easy via electronics: actual problem-solving that simply conclude with math calculations ... requires some thought.

And (2) - the story I related (about a high school graduate's famous algebra formula) was lost in the shuffle - and which I wish to recount here, in a much more fleshed-out way.

(more after the jump).........

A businessman named Danny Biasone in Syracuse, New York (who owned a bowling alley as a primary business) also owned another entertainment business back in the spring of 1954. This was a fledgling business in a fledgling industry, which seemed on the verge of collapse (due to a particular flaw in the operation of this part of the entertainment business). Several had tried other solutions, but none had worked. And since this industry had only come into existence after WW-II, it did not have a shared history with the public to guide it through these difficult times. Paying customers had started to abandon patronizing this industry, and its future was far from certain.

And then Danny Biasone devised an algebra equation whose solution was to become legendary. And he was not a professional mathematician: instead, a high school graduate (and a childhood immigrant from Italy). The answer to this problem was (ultimately) not enough to save his own individual business, as we will see later on. But it did save the industry as a whole: which is today quite lucrative and is known ... around the world.

On April 22, 1954, Danny Biasone proposed this solution to his partners in the industry at a meeting in New York City. They liked enough of what they saw in order to accept Mr. Biasone's invitation to visit Syracuse that summer for a full-scale demonstration of results of his algebra problem, which was held at Vocational High School. They were once again pleased, and agreed to implement it in their industry (on a test basis) at the end of the summer.

Oh, the formula in question? Here it is and (spoiler alert) - after this the industry will be revealed ...

   48 x 60
    --------   =   X
    60 x 2

The industry in question ... is the National Basketball Association as you may have realized.

There was an infamous game played just a few years earlier in 1950 in which the final score was: Fort Wayne (now Detroit) Pistons 19, Minneapolis (now LA) Lakers 18. Yes, a high school-like score. Many teams simply went into a stall for long parts of the game if they had the lead, and the fouls committed were starting to become - in the words of Hall of Fame player Bob Cousy - "worse and worse: guys would really hit you". And unlike college basketball - which had a much-longer shared history and relationship with its fan base - pro basketball was a post WW-II creation, without a long sense of loyalty among its fans. In fact, so many ticket-buyers had been walking out that the league (which had lost 9 of 17 franchises in four years) seemed headed for oblivion.

And then Danny Biasone - the owner of the Syracuse Nationals - re-examined a concept that had previously been proposed (but never enacted) of requiring each team to attempt to score within an allotted time.

But what time? He said, "I was just looking for a number, any number." After examining the box scores of NBA games that he thought were entertaining: he surmised that each team would take 60 shots apiece 'if nobody screwed around' over the course of a game.

And so to find that optimum number - "X" - he divided his 60 x 2 estimate into the total length of the game (converted into seconds). 48 minutes multiplied by 60 seconds, divided by 60 shots per team multiplied by 2 equals..........24. Not a rounded 24, but 24.00000000 - which may have seemed like an omen (I know it would have been for me).

So the advent of the 24-second clock was neither (a) involving a trial-and-error method, nor (b) a compromise between two committees, nor even (c) devised by a professional mathematician. The sportswriter Frank Deford believes today, "they'd spend four years testing stuff out with computers, and at the end of the day: it wouldn't work as well as what Danny dreamed up on a scratch pad".

The NBA voted to test Biasone's idea in its pre-season games before the 1954-55 season, with plans to iron out the bugs (off the court) during the following season and - if all went well - perhaps to implement it during the 1955-56 season, a year later.

But when in fact no bugs appeared: and the experiment drew praise from players, the referees, coaches and - especially - ticket managers: the NBA decided not to wait, and just implemented it immediately for the 1954-55 season. And in perhaps some sort of poetic thank-you: Danny Biasone's Syracuse Nationals team won the NBA title several months later.

Ultimately, though, Danny Biasone became a largely forgotten figure. The main reason: his "Nats" franchise failed over time due to its small-market location (as did some others). After the Philadelphia Warriors franchise moved to San Francisco in 1963, Biasone sold his team (that he had paid $1,000 for in 1949) to some Philadelphia businessmen who re-christened the team as .... the Philadelphia 76'ers.

Danny Biasone died in 1992 at age 83 with his only fanfare having been inducted into the Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame - but his concept of a shot clock was later adapted by college basketball and professional leagues around the world (often as a larger figure of 30 or 45 seconds). Eight years after his death, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in the year 2000, and a monument to his clock was dedicated in Armory Square in downtown Syracuse.


The moral of this story? If kids ask why they need to learn mathematics, tell them this parable........

48 x 60
--------   =   X
60 x 2
A calculator to compute X: Less than $5.00
The time to compute the equation manually (by simply canceling the 60's and divide 48 by 2) - seconds

Knowing how to set-up the equation...and save an industry...... priceless.

Originally posted to Ed Tracey on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:18 AM PDT.

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  •  Tip Jar (336+ / 0-)
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    "We should pay attention to that man behind the curtain."

    by Ed Tracey on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:18:44 AM PDT

  •  Heh! Computers ARE Writing Most Conserv Columns (29+ / 0-)

    If term or concept polls negative for Repub, then apply it to the most analogous Democrat.

    What does a conservative column actually require, 3 transistors maybe?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:21:14 AM PDT

  •  You solved for X! (18+ / 0-)

    Shuldn't it be "t"?

    That was fun.  When I first saw the equation I was wondering why you had two 60s that cancelled out.  

    Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann (and btw, the bike in kayakbiker is a bicycle)

    by Kayakbiker on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:26:18 AM PDT

  •  College disciplines are lenses to view the world (20+ / 0-)

    with greater clarity: a poem and an equation can both make more graspable our human reality.

    Too many of us leave college "professionalized,"  missing a respect for what disciplines not evidently tied to our professions give us: a view of the universe, and the freedom that goes with that vision.

    The future: a riddle inside an enigma wrapped in a search engine.

    by Ignacio Magaloni on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:32:02 AM PDT

    •  As a chemistry professor, I heartily agree! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      But I have a tough time convincing some of my chem majors that writing, history, psychology, and art (to name a few) are important.

      "We will restore science to its rightful place." Barack Obama, 1/20/2009

      by Poycer on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 05:34:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understand your troubles: my English Lit (0+ / 0-)

        students (the three that are not taking the class as a requiement) seem to have math anxiety just looking up the time--
        seriously, our college works very hard to communicate the need for interdisciplinary to our instructors and students.

        The future: a riddle inside an enigma wrapped in a search engine.

        by Ignacio Magaloni on Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 02:34:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Beautiful story (27+ / 0-)

    This is an excellent rebuttal to a completely substandard blowchunk of verbal vomit.  

    If it is true that computers can do all this stuff, then aren't we all better off being dumb and happy?  
    I imagine that we already have software that could write an approximation of a novel.  We already have software that can write some approximation of music.  

    I'm sure it would be no large stretch to create a piece of software to control a robotic arm and call the paintings masterpieces.  

    Wouldn't we all be much happier?

    FWIW- I think this should be on the rec list, so I will do what one does when that's the case.

    What's with the Jesus fish eating the Darwin fish? I thought they wanted people to eat Jesus, not have Jesus eat people.

    by otto on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:33:18 AM PDT

    •  The magic and threat of computers.. (24+ / 0-)

      They do exactly what we tell them to do. Exactly, literally.

      "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success." -7.75/-6.05

      by QuestionAuthority on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:37:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They do what some people tell them to do (11+ / 0-)

        My computer only does what I tell it to do because someone else who I don't even know told it how to work.  

        And then, they all sat around tables determining how they could force everyone to purchase the same OS so they could keep increasing the price and create an entire culture of subservience to the dominant platform of the day.  

        What's with the Jesus fish eating the Darwin fish? I thought they wanted people to eat Jesus, not have Jesus eat people.

        by otto on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:40:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Unfortuantely, rarely do we know what we have (12+ / 0-)

        asked for, until they do it!

        Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

        by zephron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:40:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's why I always scoffed at the Chicago school (20+ / 0-)

        of economics. "But," their supporters would say, "they've set up these complex models that run on supercomputers!" To which I would reply, "that means that their models are internally consistent logically, not that they have any relation to reality."

        Lo and behold, their models had no relation to reality. I wept for literacy when a shocking number of people registered surprise. "But they were so smart! and they had supercomputers!" So what? If anything, smart people with supercomputers are more prone to Notion's Syndrome than anyone else is, and more able to convince other people that their notion is something more or other than a cloud castle.

        It's also why all tests that ask you to use X's formula to solve problem Y do not actually test skill at mathematics (or engineering, for that matter). It's far more important to know whether a mathematician or engineer, given problem Y, knows that X's formula is the applicable solution. Any book can tell you the specifics of X's formula, but nobody (except the test you're taking) can tell you that it's the one you should look up in the book.

        Government is not instituted for the good of the governor, but of the governed; and power is not an advantage, but a burden. -Algernon Sidney

        by James Robinson on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:01:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Economists lost me at the point... (21+ / 0-)

          ...that they claimed a creature named the "rational consumer" existed.

          If such an oxymoronic creature did exist, Madison Avenue would have it shot on sight.

          "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success." -7.75/-6.05

          by QuestionAuthority on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:16:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Mad Ave is the pulse of the nation. (6+ / 0-)

            In Watchmen, Ozymandias predicts consumer trends by watching.....
            the advertisements.

            No supercomputers involved at all.

            Show me the POLICY!

            by Fabian on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:21:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  You know why they used the "rational consumer?" (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, JVolvo, kurt, codairem, Larsstephens

            It made the models easier! This is exactly the kind of thing that makes my hair stand on end. I mean yes, sure, you have to stipulate some things that make the calculations feasible on current hardware in a reasonable time frame—climatologists do it all the time—but you also have to control for the error that those stipulations introduce.

            A lot of global warming simulations assume linear effects instead of feedback loops because feedback loops are notoriously difficult, expensive and unpredictable to model, and so the goal is not actually to predict what will happen but to determine whether a variable is significant (like, say, human CO2 emissions) and how significant it is likely to be. The reason every single one of these simulations has understated the nature and extent of climate change is that climate is not a linear system. It's feedback loops all the way down. This is not a criticism of climate science: These scientists, unlike the Chicago school, know the limitations of their model and know how it is and is not useful, and share that knowledge. If only the Chicago school had been that rigorous.

            Government is not instituted for the good of the governor, but of the governed; and power is not an advantage, but a burden. -Algernon Sidney

            by James Robinson on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:07:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  They knew. (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ER Doc, kurt, Larsstephens, James Robinson

              I don't really believe that anyone thought homo economicus was anything but a theoretical construct.  At least not among serious academic economists.  Economists, like all scientists, use simplified models to try to understand basic underlying relations.  But, as you note, there are all kinds of ways things go awry.  The equations for motion in a vacuum will not predict where a falling leaf will land on a windy day.  It doesn't make those equations useless.  One thing that economists need to be better at is communicating to policy makers better.  There was a sort of fall back on using the simplified models to communicate basic theory and it lead to some empirically bad policy.  

              I'm convinced that some of the analytic work in economics retains a great deal of value, but needs to be understood in perspective.  One thing that seems to me to be going on (and I'm an outside observer of trends in economics not an insider) is that the behavioral economics trend is looking at ways that incentives and choices can be structured to give people better opportunities to make rational, informed decisions.  This is a positive trend, along with the general trend toward more empirical and historical perspective.  But analytic economics still has as a lot to offer, especially with advances in recent decades modeling rational agency with advanced probability logics.  I got interested in that area by way of interest in some abstract epistemological problems.  It's really cool what can be done with convex sets of probability functions.  A good example of this is the Ellsburg "paradox", where observed agents exhibit risk aversion that's hard to model using a single function but which can be rationalized using sets of functions.  No one thinks that people are literally computing probability functions, but the models provide an interesting way to describe behavior and may provide better normative constraints on risk through improved mathematical understanding.

              Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

              by play jurist on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:44:52 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes, exactly! (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ER Doc, Larsstephens

                The error of the Chicago economists was that they actually assumed they'd stumbled onto something with the "rational consumer"—it fit an ideology, as well as making for a pretty model—despite the fact that anyone with a background in marketing could have taken them aside and told them that it's actually a bit more complicated than that.

                Also, the results of competently executed models—e.g., of hurricanes—are checked for conformance against actual data. But condescending article after condescending article in the press told us that they'd figured out the way markets really work on their supercomputers, and the people pointing out nonconformance with observed reality were just bitter Keynesians.

                Government is not instituted for the good of the governor, but of the governed; and power is not an advantage, but a burden. -Algernon Sidney

                by James Robinson on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 01:24:36 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  ... (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ER Doc, kurt, Larsstephens, James Robinson

                  Another issue is the structure of incentives in academia itself.  A graduate student facing a tough job market or a young professor looking toward tenure needs to rack up publications.  The best way to do this is to use established methods on tractable problems, not to try to publish contrarian views.  Now, I don't mean to give a general critique of peer review.  There's good reason that it's harder to publish contrarian views because it helps weed out cranks.  However, especially in highly theoretical fields without much empirical contact it can reinforce group think.  Furthermore reviewers are often very busy with their own teaching and research, so that non-crank contrarianism has a hard time getting a thorough fair read.  In my opinion economics is a discipline (along with philosophy--in which I'm a grad student) in which fewer, better articles ought to be written.  But Deans around the country have pushed "quantitative metrics" like number of publications as the standard for assessment and it's created a culture of publish-or-perish that discourages critical work and risk taking.  Maybe one way that this self corrects is that philosophy of science moves in to play a more critical role.  As philosophers look for more places to publish and topics to publish on there's been an increase in work on the special epistemological and metaphysical problems of the social sciences, especially economics.  However, economists don't read philosophers so I'm not sure that outside criticism is going to do the trick.  Hearteningly, it does seem that academic economists are in the process of re-evaluating some of their assumptions and of looking at the social epistemology of their discipline.  Maybe some will even bother to pay attention to the gadflies.  Or maybe in 5 years the crisis will be down the memory hole and the publication factory will be churning out groupthink again.

                  Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

                  by play jurist on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 01:40:14 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'd like to see some more cross-pollination (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    play jurist, ER Doc, Larsstephens

                    as painful as that might be in certain instances, e.g., the book on Feng Shui I was gifted that starts out with the increasingly common spiel that "quantum mechanics proves that everything is energy!" There's a considerable value in having a fresh pair of eyes to look at something, and more value in having to leave the comfort of your professional jargon and its unspoken tenets to explain what you're thinking to someone in plain English. The best way to learn is, in fact, to teach.

                    And the process you describe to weed out cranks works exactly the way that damming a river works to stop floods: It smooths out the little ones, but it makes the big ones much worse than they would otherwise be (e.g., turns out the department chair is the crank. Whoops!).

                    I'm 100% with you concerning the impact of "quantitative metrics" on academia. People should publish when they have something to say. I wish there was more fact-checking by publishers, as well. I know for a fact that some novels have been more rigorously fact-checked than a great many non-fiction books.

                    Government is not instituted for the good of the governor, but of the governed; and power is not an advantage, but a burden. -Algernon Sidney

                    by James Robinson on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 01:58:51 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  The Economist has (3+ / 0-)

              a great little article on that this week, about how economists make assumptions like the rational consumer and regression towards the mean because they make the math easier, not because they make good predictions.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:43:07 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And ironically ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                they blame the consumer when said consumer fails to act rationally.

                I saw a diatribe a year or so ago that said that no rational consumer should consider buying a hybrid unless gas was much more expensive (like $7-$8 per gallon). The writer using this to ridicule hybrid buyers.

                Hopelessly pedantic since 1963.

                by admiralh on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 03:49:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  and the idea that it's rational to (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  to try and live by our ideals
                  or to try and move the market with our purchases
                  or that someone might understand the hidden costs of petroleum , are all beyond understanding to them

                  republicians, supporters of small gov't and smaller economies

                  by askyron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 04:54:40 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  They do exactly what the... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ray Radlein, otto, Larsstephens

        ... malware created by Eastern European hackers tell them to do.

        Big Joe Helton: "I pay Plenty."
        Chico Marx: "Well, then we're Plenty Tough."

        by Caelian on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:26:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Algebra my ass! (28+ / 0-)

    How is it that we let kids out of high school without at least a rudimentary understanding of Calculus?

    Since when did "The homework is to hard!" become a valid excuse?  There are difficult things to learn that are worth knowing.  Hell, most of the things worth having are difficult to acquire, including knowledge!  Talk about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    So much of what goes on in our society seems like magic to far too many simply because they have no framework for quantitatively understanding the things around them.  That this is so means we have fundamentally failed them.

    Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

    by zephron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:45:46 AM PDT

    •  Exactly. (10+ / 0-)

      Just as important as what we teach is that we are teaching how to think and to learn. A concept that seems lost on so many, and could go a long way toward explaining the Teabaggers.

    •  Calculus isn't even hard (17+ / 0-)

      initially. Once you get the epsilon-delta proof, the rest falls into place easily enough. I think 20% of the problem is that it's not taught in a way that makes it easy or possible for students to see the math in their heads (I finally got e-d when I saw it animated on an old NeXT cube) and the other 80% is that it has this reputation for being really fancy and complex.

      Government is not instituted for the good of the governor, but of the governed; and power is not an advantage, but a burden. -Algernon Sidney

      by James Robinson on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:04:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The statistics blunder that destroyed a Shuttle (22+ / 0-)

      I think it's sad that we let kids out of high school without a firm understanding of physics.

      Before every Space Shuttle launch, a safety team must first give their go-ahead.  Before the Challenger's fateful launch on January 28th, 1986, the team met to review the launch to give a go or no-go launch decision.  There's always a lot of pressure for it to be a "go", and even moreso than usual, since this launch was to be a big PR event (first teacher in space).  But there was one element from a technical perspective that made this launch different, and which most of the debate focused around: the temperature.

      The launch that morning was to be by far the coldest launch conducted to date, at temperatures below freezing.  And much of the discussion focused on the rubber O-rings.  The Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters, due to their tremendous size causing problems for shipping, can't be built in one piece.  They're built with four segments each.  At each joint there are a pair of two rubber O-rings to stop the combustion gasses from seeping through the joints.  The reason that they use two is so that if one fails, the other can still keep the gasses at bay.  Typical NASA redundancy in action, and all.

      Little did the safety board know that there had already been a study conducted on the O-rings that showed that in cold temperatures, not only are the O-rings likely to fail, but that in such conditions, a failure in one tends to cause a failure in the second.  This launch was extremely likely to cause a disaster, but they didn't have the report.  But they did have something else: data.

      The engineers had data plotting O-ring failures versus temperature. You look at it and immediately think, "Huh -- not many datapoints and not a clear correlation."  One engineer remained staunchly against the launch due to fear of O-ring failure, however; he couldn't put his finger on what he felt was wrong with the data, but he knew something was wrong with it.  Unable to convince anyone else, he bowed to the launch pressure and the team gave its go-ahead.  He went to a bar after the meeting to watch the shuttle lift off on the TV, convinced that it was going to blow up on the pad.  When it lifted off, he walked out, only to turn around and head back in as soon as he heard people in the bar screaming.

      He was right about the data.  The graph indeed showed all failures.  What it didn't show was where there weren't failures.  "Zero failures" is a valid datapoint, too -- they were omitting data.  When you include that data, you get this chart.  All of the sudden, the problem becomes obvious: almost all warm-weather launches went okay, but every single cold-weather launch had problems, some severe.

      Recognizing statistical flaws is incredibly important to society.  And not just in engineering. Way too many people think the plural of anecdote is evidence, for example.

    •  12 Months of School (11+ / 0-)

      High school should have regular Summer sessions that are optional and include a larger athletic programme than the rest of the year. The public pays for the infrastructure year round, teachers need to be paid more money annually, parents can use the "daycare", students need more education.

      Long Summer vacations are a holdover from when America's children were needed to work on farms. Indeed, 6 hour school days are a holdover from when children used to work. Neither of those requirements are typical for any but a small fraction of students.

      If America's students got 15% more hours of school days and 25% more days, almost 50% more time in school, America would be stronger and better educated.

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:12:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The only caveat is (11+ / 0-)

        we must not eliminate the opportunities for children to learn those things that can't be taught in school.

        I was a notoriously bad student, primarily due to the complete lack of interesting challenges.  I learned a great deal outside of school.  Were you to read my CV now, you probably wouldn't believe that.

        Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

        by zephron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:25:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Extracurriculum (5+ / 0-)

          I'd like to see kids get school credit for what they learn outside of school. It's important adults can claim education when they compete with each other for later education or work, or just their own self esteem. Achievement testing should measure more practical application of skills, not just reporting the words taught to kids able to remember and parrot the teachers.

          I say this as a talented standardized test taker who's taught myself more than most people have, for fun and profit.

          "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

          by DocGonzo on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:37:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Unfortunately, even the notion of "credit" (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sychotic1, kurt, codairem, Larsstephens

            is complicated.  Not all useful skills are easy to measure.  How does one compare vastly differing backgrounds among job candidates?  What, even, does a given grade mean (diligence, mastery, promise; not all A's are the same, even within a single class)?  But yes, I agree that it might be nice to appreciate the extracurricular experiences more.  Perhaps they would then be encouraged more often.

            Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

            by zephron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:45:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  You also were probably pushed to study something (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          when you weren't ready or had got it and were ready to move on.

          Fear is the Mind Killer

          by boophus on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:48:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  From the very beginning I had (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sychotic1, ER Doc, kurt, Larsstephens

            a visceral dislike for busy work.  The number of teachers I had who did not assign busy work could be counted on one hand.  That's par for the course, of course.  On the other hand, however, I did get to keep some semblance of creativity!  And I did get busy doing very interesting things in college and beyond.  So, things turned out alright in the end.  

            In fact, of particular relevance to this discussion, I have a BS in Mathematics and Physics and a PhD in the latter.  So it is not as if I was turned off of math as a result.

            Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

            by zephron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 01:06:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I agree, which is why an optional (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          session is so valuable, and why it should have all kinds of project-based learning and activities that are different from the regular curriculum.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 03:05:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I agree. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Fear is the Mind Killer

        by boophus on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:47:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Even at 45, the thought of studying for those (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc, kurt, Larsstephens

        stupid bleeding NCLB tests and going as slow as the slowest fucking student for 12 months and for 8 hours a day would have made me suicidal, homicidal or both.

        9 times out of 10, school is not a place of learning, it is a place of indoctrination.  My real education began in college and most before that was auto-didactic.

        Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

        by Sychotic1 on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:07:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hah! In my small town district, the school board (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        suggested increasing the school day by ten minutes because the district was dangerously close to the state mandated minimum hours of instruction per year. The parents revolted and forced to board to consider other options. So instead the lunch periods, activity period, and class change intervals were all shortened to increase the instructional time.

        "We will restore science to its rightful place." Barack Obama, 1/20/2009

        by Poycer on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 05:50:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  "Logic! Why don't they teach Logic... (10+ / 0-)

      ... in these schools", asks the Professor in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

      I think it's far more important for everyone to demonstrate logical reasoning and especially logical fallicies before being allowed to graduate.  I keep telling people the only reason why the Democrats got their majorities back in 2006 was the new popularity of Sudoku.

      Big Joe Helton: "I pay Plenty."
      Chico Marx: "Well, then we're Plenty Tough."

      by Caelian on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:17:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Statistics needs to be a core requirement (11+ / 0-)

      for every BA degree across the nation.

      The future: a riddle inside an enigma wrapped in a search engine.

      by Ignacio Magaloni on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:29:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Calculus (11+ / 0-)

      I had a year of college calculus, but I honestly think it is quite possible to get through life just fine without it.  Algebra is important for everyday life, but I'd disagree with you on calculus.

      Basic statistics, though, and how to understand a study, should be more widely taught in high school.  

      •  It is a powerful tool to help you understand (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        profh, Larsstephens

        the world. Calculus is a language that allows you to understand and talk about trends in a fraction of the time it would take to do it without calculus.  When someone says "job losses this month were less than last month" you won't start telling others that the recession over, because you realize that though the 2nd derivative is positive, the 1st is still negative.

        Silvio Levy

        •  Sure it is (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          condorcet, Larsstephens

          Sure, it's a good tool to have.  But critical for graduating from high school?  If you don't let people out of high school without understanding it, a lot of them will never make it out of high school at all.  I don't agree with the idea that only those who can pass calculus should have a high school diploma.

          •  I don't either, but we're at the opposite extreme (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            right now.  It's not that people get a HS diploma without knowing calculus that worries me. It's that it's fairly easy to get a HS diploma without having learned MUCH more elementary stuff than calculus, and not much in other areas either.

            There's nothing wrong with encouraging students, setting expectations and teaching math well.

            Silvio Levy

            •  Agreed (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Can't disagree with this:

              There's nothing wrong with encouraging students, setting expectations and teaching math well.

              •  Absolutely not. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Myself, I was reading fluently at three, and began writing stories around eight.

                But I am dyscalculic. I can understand (though I can't explain the understanding) some of the theories of algebra and of calculus, especially where it intersects with music and shape and I can see and hear it. So first grade pretty much taught me that I cannot do math, and when I do it it is a desperate, painful, horrendous struggle. A lot of any love for math went away when I hit the busywork of cranking out worksheet after worksheet of multiplication and long division problems; since the numbers would shift on me, while I understood the theory I could never be confident that a mistake hadn't happened somewhere along there. Because of course calculators were forbidden.

    •  Personally, I think it's because most people are (5+ / 0-)

      incapable of actually understanding even those portions of calculus that are capable of being taught in the concrete, much less the rigorous, abstract academic concepts that calculus requires. This isn't a failing of anybody or any group.

      Besides, one needn't understand any calculus at all to navigate the rudimentary abstractions involved in 99.99999% of "everyday" living. Would it be helpful? Perhaps occasionally, but more often not in any meaningful, worthwhile sense.

      •  And for that 0.00001%... (5+ / 0-)

        ... we'll increase the drop out rate another 10% by requiring calculus.

        I read things like "calculus isn't so hard!" and just shake my head at the a) ignorance and/or b) intellectual arrogance of that statement.  

        There are a lot of people who simply are not fundamentally willing or able or interested in learning higher mathematics.  And to force them to do so before getting a high school diploma is pushing them to a lifetime earning potential that's about the same as a grade school dropout.

        :: Not so hopeful now ::

        by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:53:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Rick Aucoin, Larsstephens

          CA started requiring everybody to take algebra in the 8th grade recently.  I don't agree with that decision.  I think algebra is important (not Algebra II necessarily but first year algebra certainly), but there is no reason why you can't take it in the 9th or even the 10th grade and have a successful life.  Not everybody is going to be an engineer.

          •  eh. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Larsstephens, eaglekid85va

            I don't think it should be required to get a high school diploma at all.  Mastery of arithmetic for the basic high school diploma should be a given, but moving into more advanced math than fractions, percentages, add/subtract/multiply/divide just doesn't make sense on a "Must Pass Or You Get No Diploma" level.

            :: Not so hopeful now ::

            by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:50:32 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I taught physics as a grad student (7+ / 0-)
          One of the most valuable lessons I learned is that it is a sort of faux-humility that allows a person to say "oh this isn't hard."

          It damn well is hard for almost everybody just like any other skill, and like any other skill practice will only compensate so much for innate ability. There's no need to punish people for having a different set of skills.

        •  I think the problem is the pass/fail (5+ / 0-)

          system of high school graduation.  Because all it really does is to pigeon-hole you as a loser/not a loser.

          I went to school in the UK, and we did it very differently.  Simplified, you got a separate pass/fail on each of your classes.

          Therefore you do not have to pass something that just doesn't work for you in order to succeed.

          It also gives employers and colleges far more information about your particular strengths than saying you managed to graduate in a one-size-fits-all manner.

        •  No one is talking about higher mathematics. (6+ / 0-)

          Algebra and the fundamentals of calculus are mastered by high-school students in many countries.  Yes, it requires effort, but it makes it much easier to understand the world quantitatively, and it affords a certain immunity against bullshit.  

          No one who understands the exponential function would go for a balloon mortgage, or believe that our society is sustainable, however peaceful your neighboorhood might look.  In fact, a lot of RepubliCrap propaganda is easily disposed of if one understands basic algebra and calculus.

          Silvio Levy

          •  I'm skeptical of your claims (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rick Aucoin, Larsstephens
            The understanding you speak of requires a level of sophistication that our schools don't provide and that I think can't be provided anyway. Few people in America or abroad are willing to invest the effort in making the analysis you suggest even of they are capable of it (which I doubt).
            •  Also... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Larsstephens, eaglekid85va

              ... I honestly don't think most people have the ability.  Not just the knowledge, but the actual ability.  I'm not running down the "average" mentality, but all too often those who are above average seem to forget that they are above average.

              And, sorry, as someone who flunked out of Algebra I twice in high school and therefore ended up dropping out of school completely, I consider algebra to be higher mathematics.  Arithmetic is essential for getting by in the world, just like basic literacy is, but one does not need to clear a bar like Algebra anymore than they need to be able to critically read Chaucer in order to be a good functioning contributor to our society.  

              But denying them a high school diploma for that lack sure does make it less likely they'll be able to contribute in any positive way.

              :: Not so hopeful now ::

              by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:48:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't think you should be denied a high-school (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                kurt, Rick Aucoin, Larsstephens

                diploma for not being able or willing to learn math, but there is nothing wrong with encouraging students, setting expectations and teaching it right.

                And the Algebra=Chaucer equation is way off base.  Chaucer is but one author, and he wrote in what is for all intents and purposes a different language that is no longer useful in our world.  One leans Middle English and reads Chaucer to broaden one's horizons.

                But algebra is everyone.

                Silvio Levy

                •  Not academic algebra. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Rick Aucoin, Larsstephens
                  I think a concrete, applied algebra is appropriate to describe as being for everyone. Few people ever have the need to have a genuine understanding of something even as basic as the empty set (for example) much less the concept of number base, various polynomial theorems, graphing things other than very basic linear equations, and so forth.

                  The concept of limit, basic dericatives, and even useful application of say Newton's Method (e.g. for approxinting square roots), and so forth is even further removed from necessity. May as well tell them they should read up on Tangent Bundles and Killing Fields or the fun of S(2) groups while we are at it: it's about as useful and comprehendable.

                •  But, that's not what happens in American schools. (0+ / 0-)

                  In our schools you aren't encouraged to learn Algebra, you are forced into it and if you can't do it you pretty much get to live your life at the earning potential of a GRADE SCHOOL dropout.

                  Algebra as an option, Arithmetic as a requirement.  Not everyone is going to grow up and be an engineer, they really aren't.  We NEED good plumbers, carpenters, we need good Grocery Store managers.  It's OK.  It's honest work.  

                  :: Not so hopeful now ::

                  by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:19:18 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Spoken like a mathmetician. (0+ / 0-)

                  I also know a English Literature Prof who would agree that the comparison is way off base, but for the opposite of your reason.

                  Since I don't really have a dog in that race, I don't understand Algebra or Chaucer, I'll settle for "Both Are Superfluous To Most People's Lives".

                  :: Not so hopeful now ::

                  by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:25:55 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  By all means let's hear your English Lit (0+ / 0-)

                    prof's reasoning.  I'm not hard to persuade with lucid argumentation.

                    Is your friend a Kossack?  Invite him to explain why he/she thinks learning Middle English is important for everyone and learning algebra is not.

          •  There is no country in the world (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            that expects EVERY student to master calculus in high school.

            Their elites, sure.

            And it may shock you to know that I know some very conservative Republicans who are quite good at math and physics. (Plenty of liberals who do too.)

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 03:09:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  lots to learn (10+ / 0-)

      I teach engineering. Most of my students, not all, but most, come in with some exposure to calculus before college. Believe, me, I understand the need for calculus as well as anyone.

      That said, I don't think everyone needs to learn everything. You for example, spelled a word wrong. (too <> to) Not a big deal, but it points out that you don't need to be an expert to be productive.

      Most important, more than calculus, more than spelling, is the ability to think critically. The ability to observe, evaluate, and act. The ability to listen critically to people you admire.

      That's what we need to teach our kids.

      •  This happens when I type faster than I read! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt, Larsstephens

        The problem with teaching critical thinking skills is that there are few examples in the standard curriculum where these are stressed as heavily as in math courses.  Unfortunately, that is only true when we get to proof-based courses (turn-the-crank formula based courses, not so much!).  For many, Calculus is the first example of that, which explains the culture shock that arises when students first encounter it.

        Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

        by zephron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:56:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  So how many high school seniors (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, Larsstephens

      do you think could figure out how many square yards of carpet to buy for a non-square living room?

      Without geometry, life is pointless. And blues harmonica players suck.

      by blindcynic on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:42:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Exactly (18+ / 0-)

    Math is useful not for being able to calculate a tip without taking off your shoes.

    Math is useful because the mental skills involved are hard to teach any other way and are essential to functioning as a human being.

    If you can't do math in your head, try to take an online class or something. It will change your life.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:47:20 AM PDT

    •  Ha ha! Not all math can be done in your head! (12+ / 0-)

      I fill white boards with the stuff on occasion.

      The most important thing that I would hope the appreciation students would take away is the idea that it is possible to construct logical arguments rigorously relating various notions.  That is, the very idea of how a proof works, and perhaps more importantly, why it is necessary.

      That and the fact that we have had great success quantitatively understanding the natural world with these things!  I.e., it's not all random magic.

      Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

      by zephron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:53:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not all math can be done in your head (10+ / 0-)

        But being able to perform math quickly and easily is key to being able to use it to describe reality. If you cannot manipulate a paintbrush, you can't paint a picture regardless of you native gifts as an artist.

        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

        by blue aardvark on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:58:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, it depends upon your point of view. (5+ / 0-)

          If by math you mean "arithmetic", then should you wish to compute tips, balance your checkbooks, maybe even identify which bag of walnuts is really cheaper, then, yeah, doing it in your head is important.

          However, mathematics is a much larger discipline than that, something that is rarely properly communicated to people outside of the hard sciences.  Ironically, there is a great art to it.  In stark contrast to the cookbook, turn-the-crank formulas we all learned in elementary school, in many cases an almost preternatural intuition is required to make progress.  Something that, as in art, usually comes in equal parts from experience and innate talent.  And like art, there is true beauty in it when all things fall into place, part of a greater whole, each piece a separate face of a deeper truth.  This is rarely done in one's head.

          Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

          by zephron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:11:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  One of my degrees is in math (6+ / 0-)

            I know precisely whereof you speak about the rush that occurs when you "see" how equations can be used to describe an underlying physical truth.

            I still contend that the ability to speedily do grade school arithmetic in your head is helpful in getting to the epiphany.

            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

            by blue aardvark on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:44:40 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Indeed. No argument there. (4+ / 0-)

              I suppose, I would like to see kids also learning more about more complicated concepts that better represent Mathematics and its relationship to the natural world.  All to often ailure to appreciate Mathematics derives from failure to understand its potential.  This can be remedied.

              Also, some of the best mathematicians I know are piss poor at arithmetic!

              Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

              by zephron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:49:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  one of my inspirations about math and 'rithmetic (4+ / 0-)

              was a local grocer (the 1950s) who did almost all sales in his head. And in those days all the locals would run tabs 'till the end of the month. We'd just put stuff on the counter and he'd say "that'll be $1.32". He'd write the prices on a slip of paper and give it to us to keep, and a copy in his book, but he was never wrong.

              As a consequence I've always sort of kept a reasonableness tally in my head when shopping, and more than a few times the Scanner/Register will say "23.45" and I'll go "Wait, that can't be right...I don't know what the exact answer is, but that isn't it..."

              Without geometry, life is pointless. And blues harmonica players suck.

              by blindcynic on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:59:46 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  A real feeling of power, knowing when there is (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                a gross messup and saving $10 and up.

                What is fun is walking up and putting money on the counter, including tax.  The total comes up and the stack gets pushed.   looks on faces are worth the bit of mental stretching

                Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through. Jonathan Swift

                by maybeeso in michigan on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 05:46:04 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  I forget who said it (6+ / 0-)

        but I like the idea that mathematics is only formal philosophy. It is one of the best, longest-lived and most profound metaphors we have for the nature of reality, and the most accurate model to date.

        Government is not instituted for the good of the governor, but of the governed; and power is not an advantage, but a burden. -Algernon Sidney

        by James Robinson on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:06:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  But basic math - arithmetic - can be done in your (8+ / 0-)

        head.  What's really frightening to me is the number of younger people who literally can't add or subtract (like making change for a purchase) or do simple multiplication or division without a electronic help.  This means they have a rough time estimating things - which means that if they entered things incorrectly, they don't notice that the calculator gave them a very wrong result.  I feel really old every time I think "these kids today.... " but in this one case, I can't help it.

        They only call it Class War when we fight back.

        by lineatus on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:08:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Understanding billions (5+ / 0-)

        and how that's different from millions is REALLY important. Being able to understand that qualitative mathematics, as represented by the difference between an analog clock and a digital clock, is really important.

        I get really annoyed when people are off in their estimates by orders of magnitude. Just makes me nuts.

        •  Records! (4+ / 0-)

          More years ago than I'd like to admit I TA'd a course in introductory Calculus.  This was for the math-appreciation crowd, so we started with functions, and in particular, linear functions.  On a problem set they were asked to fit a line to two data points and extrapolate.  Specifically, something like "The world record for the mile run was 5 minutes in 1960 and 4 minutes in 1980.  If it continues to decrease linearly, what will it be in 2000?"  Half the students came up with an answer larger than 4 minutes!  Now, I understood the error they made, but half the students didn't notice that their record was receding!  A stern lecture on checking your answers ensued ...


          Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

          by zephron on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:04:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I hated those proofs (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I could solve any math problem, but failed all my math classes because I didn't do it the way I was "taught".

        Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

        by Sychotic1 on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:09:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Math is useful for everyone because it teaches (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, condorcet, Larsstephens, Poycer

      a person to look at ideas in a more rigorous and clear way. To do a good proof you can not start with  just any old idea... it has to be established or an accepted idea. Then it has to be a step by step path where every step flows logically from the previous. No leaps with out connection like we see in so much of the demagogues.

      Interestingly, one piece of data that contradicts the theorem and the theorem is dismissed. I did one disproof by example in college and the proffessor wrote it up and notified the text author. It is a 'clear of bias' language that accepts nothing without proof. You can pose a theorem but it is not accepted until there is proof. I think it is beautiful.

      Fear is the Mind Killer

      by boophus on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:58:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  That was very entertaining (6+ / 0-)

    I just sent it around to the kids crew of my facebook family.

    My leader is Barack Hussein Obama the finest President this country has ever elected. Face Front and Respect

    by Adept2u on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:49:24 AM PDT

  •  I recall reading Bill Simmons's ESPN column (16+ / 0-)

    on Danny Biasone, and being amazed at that formula for how he devised the 24-second shot clock.  From Simmons:

    How did he arrive at 24? Biasone studied games he remembered enjoying and realized that, in each of those games, both teams took around 60 shots. Well, 60+60=120. He settled on 120 shots as the minimum combined total that would be acceptable from a "I'd rather kill myself than watch another NBA game like this" standpoint. And if you shoot every 24 seconds over the course of a 48-minute game, that comes out to .. wait for it ... 120 shots! In August 1954, Biasone staged an exhibition game using his clock with NBA players to prove the idea worked. It did. The other owners voted for the change. Scoring quickly jumped by 13.6 points per team. The Karma Gods rewarded Biasone when Syracuse beat Fort Wayne in seven games for the '55 title, the second lowest-rated sporting event of all-time behind Fox's "Celebrity Boxing 2." Coincidence? I say no. Scoring cracked 100 per game by 1957-58. One year later, Boston beat Minnesota by a record score of 173-139, with Bob Cousy finishing with a record 29 assists. And the NBA never looked back.

  •  Your story quite correctly points out how the (6+ / 0-)

    24 second clock saved the NBA, a for profit entertainment venture. What it ignores is the perspective of many of us old timers who think the clock, and thr run and gun mentality it brought with it, ruined the game.
    Prior to the clock, watching basketball was often as exciting to the casual fan as watching a chess match. With human bodies in their underwear bumping and grinding to gain some small advantage until the high percentage shot presented itself. Compared to today's game it was more like a rugby scrum.
    No one can deny the incredible athleticism and fan excitement of today's game, but I. for one, would be just as happy watching a 20-19 game as a 120-105 one.
    I played thirty two seasons in low level leagues, some with the clock, some without. I even played in what were called "slow break" leagues where the ball could not "draw iron" until ten seconds had elapsed or the defense was set up, whichever came first. The refs carried a bicycle horn which they would toot when the threshhold had been met.
    If what you like is basketball as entertainment, i.e., putting paid asses in the seats, the 24 second clock is for you. If what you like is the push and shove, pick and screen, old fashioned ball, like they play down at the Y, or the playground, the clock is an abomination.
    Perhaps the most exciting two and a half minutes of college basketball I've ever seen took place in the finals of the 1961 NIT, then on a par with the NCAA for prestige. A fella named Johnny Egan of Providence College dribbled out those last two and half minutes to preserve a one point victory as defenders chased him all over the court trying to steal the ball or even commit a foul.
    Johnny Egan wasn't just a good staller, he lasted eleven seasons in the NBA with the clock, but his heroics that day would be impossible under the current rules.

    I had a brother at Khe Sanh, fightin' off them Viet Cong, they're still there, but he's all gone. The Boss

    by DaNang65 on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:54:00 AM PDT

    •  not having lived in the pre-shot clock era, (8+ / 0-)

      I couldn't tell you about the experience about how exciting it was watching those games vs. the games of today.  But, here's a question I would pose: How is the shot clock responsible for ruining the game?  There were games in the pre-shot clock era in which teams would hold the ball for a single possession for an entire quarter, without even shooting the ball.  The shot clock, however, forces teams on offense to apply all fundamental aspects of basketball -- passing, motion, setting screens, driving to the basket, and most importantly, getting a good shot, and doing it all in a specific window of time -- much like chess players in professional tournaments have a set limit of time to make their move.  Without the shot clock, that last element no longer applies.

      The shot clock also forced teams to have to play tougher defense -- the big increase in field goal attempts and points scored meant that players would have to work harder to stop the other team from scoring.

      •  The stall was an art, and a direct challenge to (4+ / 0-)

        the defense. Bear in mind the "five second, closely guarded" rule, that is, if the player in possession of the ball was closely guarded (meaning, roughly, within arm's length) he must advance the ball or pass it to a team mate. I have played in games where our point guard would stand, ball on his hip, for one, two, five minutes until a defender came out to closely guard him. The whole point was to prevent tight, packed in zone defenses that made high percentage shots impossible.
        Perhaps the best analogy is to two good defensive football teams, each three and outing the other to a 0-0 tie at the end of regulation. Perhaps two or more overtimes, until somebody makes a mistake.
        To me that is every bit as exciting as watching Dr. J, or Michael, or Kobe, or LBJ, demostrate their incredible talents as individuals.
        The low scoring mentality relies far more heavily on the entire team concept, as the other team will quickly find and attempt to exploit the weakest links.
        But then again I'm the kind of sports fan who finds as much enjoyment in watching the strong safety, say, fill in for the linebacker drawn out of position to cover the pulling guard. It's not all about the ball carrier.
        I don't know if that makes it any clearer for you, I hope so.

        I had a brother at Khe Sanh, fightin' off them Viet Cong, they're still there, but he's all gone. The Boss

        by DaNang65 on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:24:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  well, I think the football analogy (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ray Radlein, DaNang65, Larsstephens

          would be more apt if, after snapping the ball, the entire offense stood there, without making a move to exploit the defense, for entire minutes at a time, and the defense didn't react at all.  Or better yet, if there was no play clock in between downs, so that an offense could gain a few yards on a single run, then just hold the ball indefinitely.

          I agree that tough defensive battles are exciting to watch, and shouldn't be dismissed outright because scoring isn't necessarily high enough.  But, I'm not sure the low scoring mentality helps the team focus more on the team concept -- because in the pre-shot clock era, there were several players who didn't get to participate on offense or defense at all, even when they were in the game, due to indefinite stalling tactics.

          •  Two things my first high school b-ball coach (5+ / 0-)

            taught, admittedly this was the 1950's: First, on the first day of tryouts he began "Gentlemen, this is a basketball. There are three things you can do with it; pass it, dribble it, or shoot it. If you want to play for me you'll choose them in that order" Second, he preached time after time, "One Nothing is a Win".
            If you ever saw a properly executed stall, think Dean Smith's "Four Corners Offense", every player was constantly involved, sometimes in the sense of Castenda's Don Juan "A warrior knows that he is waiting, and he knows what he is waiting for."
            Many times a seemingly uninvolved player was "waiting", usually for the moment of inattention or distraction by his defender, to make a backdoor cut. The four corners bored casual fans, so the NCAA outlawed it, but it was a thing of beauty to watch, especially with Phil Ford at the point.

            I had a brother at Khe Sanh, fightin' off them Viet Cong, they're still there, but he's all gone. The Boss

            by DaNang65 on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:54:08 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  sounds like Gene Hackman's words from "Hoosiers" (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ER Doc, DaNang65, Larsstephens

              about requiring his players to pass the ball four times before shooting, if only to teach the fundamentals.

              •  When Bob Knight was winning (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ER Doc, Larsstephens, SuperBowlXX

                NCAA championships at Indiana his rule was three passes, but the idea is the same. When I watch a team that I haven't seen before one of the things I like most is when all five players get a "touch" on the first possession. Even the guys there aren't any plays in the playbook for, maybe especially them.
                It's a team building thing.

                I had a brother at Khe Sanh, fightin' off them Viet Cong, they're still there, but he's all gone. The Boss

                by DaNang65 on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:50:35 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  I see your perspective, but the shock (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      clock for just a pure entertainment was needed in the game, in both the college and professional level, as well as the three point line.

      It help raise the level of the game by making it a chess match at a clearly higher and needed speed, and prevented a team from really holding the ball at an absurd time level.

      With it, basketball would not have grown clearly in most people's minds around the game.

      •  While your point is perfectly correct (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        as to basketball becoming an entertainment venue, to repeat myself, putting paid asses in the seats, the game, as it used to be played, on the floor, was far more suited to the non-athletically gifted.
        It's one of the reasons I've become a fan of women's b-ball, not that the players aren't athletically gifted, particularly at the highest levels, but women generally play a much more team oriented game, where most of the significant action takes place not on the ball handler, but one or two passes, picks, and screens away from how the play eventually turns out.
        Similarly with team defense, it's not the one woman to beat, but the second and third defender rotating properly, that makes the game enjoyable, at least for this old timer.
        It's like the difference between fast pitch and slow pitch sofball. In fast pitch the team with the best pitcher almost always wins. Nobody can hit him/her. In slow pitch everybody can hit the ball, the question becomes how the defense, as a team, handles it.
        There's an inherent contradiction in my example, since fast pitch games are often 1-0 or 2-1, while slow pitch game are often 20-18 affairs.
        What is not contradictory, IMHO, is that in one case a superstar can carry a so called team, in the other it takes the entire team to prevail.

        I had a brother at Khe Sanh, fightin' off them Viet Cong, they're still there, but he's all gone. The Boss

        by DaNang65 on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 06:44:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But you're acting like Bob Cousy wasn't athletic (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ed Tracey

          or Jerry West or Pistol Pete weren't superb athletes. They were terrific athletes as well.

          And last time I checked, the women's NCAA, the WNBA, and the defunct ABL (which was a better league than the WNBA when they both started) did use the shot clock.

          •  There's so many parts to your comment that I'm (0+ / 0-)

            not sure where to begin replying. Perhaps by going last to first.
            All of the leagues you mention are professional despite the NCAA's protestations to the contrary, the money comes from putting paid butts on the seats. That is, they're not played by guys/gals for the love of the game, but the price of admission. Most, if not all, fans of today, pay to see action, which they have been conditioned to see as the run and gun, time clock's winding down, version of the game. I admit it's great fan entertainment, much more understanable to the usual fan than a seemingly slow moving (despite the constant action away from the ball) of no shot clock ball. It takes a real afficiando to appreciate the picks, blocks, screens, etc. which lead to the high percentage shot. And I don't mean 40% from the field, I'm talking 80% or better.
            Cousy and Maravich were magicians with the ball, but any number of current NBA pine riders would eat their lunch on defense. The Logo is a bit more problematic, his competitiveness would probably earn him a spot on anybody's NBA roster, but he certainly wouldn't be the star today he was then.

            Especially since you brought up Cousy, who was recruited to Holy Cross out of Andrew Jackson H.S. in the Bronx by the physician who delivered me and treated me until I left home, let me bring up one of his starting team mates "Jungle" Jim Luscotoff, who may have had an athletic bone in his body, but he kept it well hidden. Or even Cousy's running mate at guard, Bill Sharman, an incredibly good shooter who couldn't guard anybody. Or Tommy "Ack Ack" Heinsohn, who's 6'8 height was a tremendous asset for a Fifties player but athletic, please.
            For my money, since this somehow seems to be about white guys in the NBA, Steve Nash is as gifted as anybody you mention, but who can he guard?

            I had a brother at Khe Sanh, fightin' off them Viet Cong, they're still there, but he's all gone. The Boss

            by DaNang65 on Tue Apr 20, 2010 at 05:04:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Cohen is an idiot (19+ / 0-)

    But not the first WaPo columnist to come out against algebra. When I lived in the DC area, I ranted for years about a column which at this point must be 15 or 20 years ago. Memory says it was Colman McCarthy but I don't want to slander him if that's incorrect.

    Anyway, what the columnist was saying was that he didn't understand why there was a math requirement to graduate high school. After all, he had never seen an advertisement in the post for an algebra expert. And when, he asked rhetorically, did his readers last use a quadratic equation?

    I use quadratic equations constantly, thanks. And algebra. And calculus. It's a routine part of my engineering R & D job.

    Being well along in my advancement toward permanent curmudgeonliness, I can still work up a head of steam over that column.

    Had I been a better writer (and even more of a curmudgeon) I would have fired off a rant about how the same criteria could be argued to dismiss history and literature from the high-school curriculum.

  •  also, as long as we're talking about education (7+ / 0-)

    standards, let's apply the historical lessons of basketball to the infamous Texas school board.

    If the right-wing conservatives on the board had their way, they would remove references of Danny Biasone and Dr. James Naismith from the history books, and replace them with references to Don "Moose" Lewis -- the guy who wants to start the All-American Basketball Alliance.

  •  What an amazing diary (9+ / 0-)

    Point very well made.  This is the type of content that I come to dailykos to read.  Thanks much for it.' New Science-Based Climate Change Agency

    by GN1927 on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:58:23 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this diary. (5+ / 0-)

    Nicely explained. Thanks!

  •  nicely done! (4+ / 0-)

    Time keeping is something we all use and rarely recognize the whys and hows. Whenever I sustitute taught math in the local high school I would ask the students why there were 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in a hour, and 60 seconds in a minute. Then the lecture would begin on the value of math in one's life.

    "There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home." John Stuart Mill

    by kuvasz on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:59:41 AM PDT

  •  Excellent history lesson (4+ / 0-)

    I've been a basketball fan for most of my 43 years, but never knew that story!

    Thanks for posting it.  Great story on why math is important.

    "I'm not a member of an organized political party - I'm a Democrat." Will Rogers

    by newjeffct on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:04:45 AM PDT

  •  Confession: I used my phone/calculator (5+ / 0-)

    And I wondered what this had to do with Jack Bauer.  Sad, really.

    "Right wing freak machine" General Wes Clark

    by Tracker on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:05:42 AM PDT

  •  Math Literacy Is Power (9+ / 0-)

    Knowing how to do algebra, "word problems", gives the power to understand what's happening, and what to do. I use algebra all the time whenever I'm solving a problem by myself, or in just understanding anything happening in large numbers.

    Ignoring that fundamental education will help make America a nation of even more helpless, powerless people. At the mercy of a world of predators and hard problems.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:07:32 AM PDT

  •  I most feared "open book" math/engineering tests (13+ / 0-) college, because I knew from experience that the sort of professor willing to allow that was nearly always savvy enough to construct their tests so that the true challenge was figuring out how to set up the problem correctly, rather than the actual difficulty of solving it once set up.  So, in general there was a good correlation between the generosity of the types of material and aids you were allowed to consult during the test, and the level of problem-solving insight and skills you needed to have developed in the particular subject-area beyond rote cook-book plug-n-chug type solutions.  The problems posed never straightforwardly resembled any of the text or classroom examples - there was always genuine understanding and insight required to set the problem up in a way that you could make use of any of the forumulas in the text.  The most fearful tests of all were those where you could consult anything but another person.

  •  I'm not sure where the math comes in here (4+ / 0-)

    If the clock were 30 seconds, it would still have sped up the game.  He came up with the ideal number of shots then solved for it, but it's pretty clear that the clock would still force a certain number of shots.

    Now that we're on the subject, could someone hack about 10 seconds off the NFL play clock please?

    Kill the filibuster!

    by sproingie on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:12:30 AM PDT

  •  you think this is a good thing? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    codairem, Larsstephens, Bmeis

    I would rather this "industry" had died an early death, rather than becoming one more retarded gladitorial bread-and-circuses distraction for a bored, amusement-addled populace of morons.

    this said, your point about the importance of math is well taken.

  •  Presented for (8+ / 0-)

    your due consideration wrt:

    And so to find that optimum number - "X" - he divided his 60 x 2 estimate into the total length of the game (converted into seconds). 48 minutes multiplied by 60 seconds, divided by 60 shots per team multiplied by 2 equals..........24. Not just 24, but 24.00000000

    This implies that the quantity of time known as a "second" is measured about a million times more precisely than it really is during a basketball game.

  •  Consider how many close plays in baseball (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Radlein, Ed Tracey, condorcet, MooseHB

    Who figured out that 90 feet would be just right?

    All job performance should be evaluated according to delivering successful scores. Let's start with your job.

    by algebrateacher on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:15:39 AM PDT

    •  Evolution (4+ / 0-)

      Trial and error over time did, I would expect. In part this trial and error would have been conducted in the early days of what we would call baseball, and in part it would have been conducted by the progenitor sports of baseball, such as rounders, town ball, and perhaps cricket.

      Any random game-like activity humans engage in will tend to evolve rules over time and bend towards some local optimum shape, because that's just what humans do. From the first time that people started hitting hand-tossed rocks or whatever with a stick out in a field, the optimum distances probably sorted themselves out fairly quickly.

      Part of the genius of the basketball approach was shortcutting the trial and error by seeking the optimally balanced end result by inspection and then seeing what rule best achieved it.

      "I play a street-wise pimp" — Al Gore

      by Ray Radlein on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:44:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  can a computer (7+ / 0-)

    Also tell you what you are inputting? Last year I studied for an exam that tested derivatives among other things. I learned a lot about how derivatives are priced and analyzed.

    How many people in these big firms like GS knew any of that? All they knew was enter some parameters into the computer and out spits a billion dollars.

    Understanding math also gives you an intuitive feel for when something doesn't "add up." Back in 05 or so the housing prices for real estate just didn't feel right. They felt out of control. Sure CNBC told me everything was great but I did some research and looked at some scary graphs and sure enough... this was correct!

    Maybe if more people were informed about mathematics instead of listening to dingbats like Cohen, we wouldn't have the problems we do.

    •  The old GIGO conundrum (7+ / 0-)

      Garbage In Garbage Out.
       Lost track of how many times I've encountered that problem from professional people who were supposedly trained to know better.  They focused on the end product, not understanding that what they were putting in (or not checking what was put in) was questionable to begin with.

      My Karma just ran over your Dogma

      by FoundingFatherDAR on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:29:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Wall Street firms hired a lot of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      condorcet, Larsstephens

      Math and physics people, to set up the models for computerized trading, arbitrage and for risk analysis. They we called "Quants" (for Quantitative Analyst).

      These guys made a lot of money, but part of the problem was that they didn't think like Hedge Fund managers, and the Hedge fund managers would say "Hey, I don't understand the details, but these guys are Phd Mathematicians, so what could go wrong...?

      And the quants would say "hey, you didn't tell me that cheaters are allowed to use these formulas and pretend they represent all versions of reality..."

      Without geometry, life is pointless. And blues harmonica players suck.

      by blindcynic on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 01:16:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  math is at the heart of a lot of higher order (7+ / 0-)

    thinking skills.

    Schools have become too focused on teaching students marketable skills with a loss of emphasis on teaching them how to think.

    Toyota: Proof US Union Labor Still Does it Better

    by VelvetElvis on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:18:55 AM PDT

  •  You had me going there. (4+ / 0-)

    Not being a sports fan, I was a little disappointed when the mystery industry turned out to be professional basketball.  However, the lesson still holds.  Ordinary people who have even just a little well-learned math can innovate and improvise in an efficient and precise manner.  Being a person who could not make my living without math, I'm all for publicizing an inspiring story about how someone who knew no more than high-school algebra managed to save an industry.

    -5.13,-5.64; EVERYTHING is an approximation! -Hans A. Bethe

    by gizmo59 on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:21:59 AM PDT

  •  Something pretty lame about a game that forces (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    codairem, Larsstephens, Bmeis

    a strategy on a team by the artificial means of a time of possession that is forced by a "shot clock".  It just heightens the artificial nature of the game itself by forcing a particular style of play that gives an advantage to players with certain offensive talents and disenfranchises the smaller player who excels at defense.  That's why basketball is such a bore to watch on so many levels.

    And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

    by MrJersey on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:23:22 AM PDT

  •  Pet peeve = clerks who can't do simple math. (9+ / 0-)

    Perhaps as a bean counter I'm overly demanding that people in positions which handle money have basic math skills, but here are two situations I've encountered :
     1) Just recently had a USPS clerk ask me to tell him how much postage was already on an envelope I was mailing.  The envelope had five 32 cent stamps on it.  
     2) A grocery store checker had to lean over to the one at the next counter to ask how much 10% of X was.

     Anyone who can't deal with such simple math problems should not be in a job where they are handling financial transactions, especially when cash is involved.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:25:25 AM PDT

    •  oh yeah (3+ / 0-)

      I encounter, every so often, a clerk or teller who isn't paying attention and hands me back the wrong change.  One got me recently...I bought lunch at a workplace cafeteria and I gave the cashier a $5 for a (can't recall exactly so I'm making it up) $3.18 tab.  She quickly handed me back something easy and way too much like $2.50 and shut her register.  

      I said "wait, that's too much change" and she just waved me off, shrugged, and looked really disinterested.  I was stunned and didn't know what to say.  

      A left-of-center blow-harded member of the goose-stepping blog-stapo since 2004.

      by floundericiousMI on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:30:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I argued against using calculators in elementary (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      school math for years.  This was after I bought 2 yards of nylon net @.39/yard.  The clerk whipped out a  calculator to figure out how much to write on the slip.

      sigh   at least he had a calculator    there weren't that many around then

      Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through. Jonathan Swift

      by maybeeso in michigan on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 05:39:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Another [timely] use of "math" (5+ / 0-)

    It never ceases to surprise me how many people think they need to plop down $100 to H&R to get their taxes done for a basic return.  Once you've gathered all your documents (which you have to do anyway, with or without a tax preparer), the forms take all of an hour to fill in if you're doing just the typical itemized deductions.  Yet, people complain about how hard it is to compute what 6.85% of line 23 is.

    You may need a tax preparer to find more exotic deductions, but most people who use one have plain vanilla returns.

    •  If you're childless and renting, (4+ / 0-)

      (which generally means you won't be itemizing), you can do the 1040EZ which only takes 5-10 minutes.

    •  It takes a whole day to prepare our taxes (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sychotic1, zephron, Larsstephens

      and I'm a mathematician.  And no, we have nothing exotic, just consulting income.

      The tax code is a scandal. Not the math, but the endless nested if-thens that each represent a vested interest.  I mean, why should income from fishing, or ministers from this or that faith, be treated differently from any other income or profession?

      In the Bush I years, when newspapers still did those things, there was a two-page expose in the NYTimes about how the first family actually paid LESS taxes, percentwise, than a salaried employee earning 30 or 40k a year. I forget the details, but two things stuck out: both were paying about 10% of their income in tax, in spite of a "progressive" tax code; and the Bushes were able to, for instance, choose a low-tax state (Texas) as their "residence" in spite of spending 0% of the year there.

      Of course they had all sorts of tax shelters and creative instruments which are not available to the less well-to-do.

      Ever since I've felt that the tax code needs to be drastically simplified, most if not all exemptions and shelters eliminated, and transparency restored.  I'm not quite a flat taxer, but in practice, a flat 20% tax on the first 250k of income minus a 10k/person exemption, followed by a flat 50% tax on all earnings past 250k, would be a lot saner, simpler and even more progressive than what we have now.

      Silvio Levy

    •  I suspect part of that is simply uncertainty (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      People are daunted by their taxes, no matter how simple it may be. They know if they make a mistake it could be costly, so it freaks them out.

      That $100 provides a little comfort that at least an "expert" has looked at their 1040S and said, "looks good".

  •  Awesome. (10+ / 0-)

    Thanks for this, Ed.

    You might enjoy Isaac Asimov's 1957 short story, The Feeling of Power. It is an eerily prescient tale of a United States where remotely piloted military aircraft and missiles have completely supplanted humans. The one scientist who has kept up the study of the arcane lost art of doing math by pencil is suddenly discovered by the Pentagon, and becomes the military's most prized secret weapon.

    "It seems that at one time computers were designed directly by human beings. Those were simple computers, of course, this being before the time of the rational use of computers to design more advanced computers had been established."

    "Yes, yes. Go on."

    "Technician Aub apparently had, as his hobby, the reconstruction of some of these ancient devices, and in so doing he studied the details of their workings and found he could imitate them. The multiplication I just performed for you is an imitation of the workings of a computer."


    •  One of my favorite stories. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, Larsstephens

      It is from Nine Tomorrows.  My other favorite story from that collection is "Profession" - about instantaneous learning from programs downloaded straight into your brain.  Poor George Platon wants to be a programmer but is instead sent to the "House for the Feeble Minded."  What he learns there is most interesting.  ;-)

  •  Math, essential. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    misreal, Larsstephens, eaglekid85va

    Algebra?  Not so much.  Having Algebra as required causes more drop outs than any other school requirement in the admittedly anecdotal evidence I've seen through my own children struggling through high school.

    I will not believe that every person in the United States needs to know algebra in order to graduate High School.  The difference in earning potential for a high school dropout and a high school graduate is essentially the same as the difference in a GRADE school dropout and a high school graduate.  

    For the love of god we've GOT to start making high school more functional for our kids.  Less requirements of subjects like Algebra for every single student, more options for fundamental skills and even, yes, vocational training.

    A kid who can solve a quadratic vs. a kid who can balance their checkbook... I'll take the second, please, in 95% of all cases.

    :: Not so hopeful now ::

    by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:48:20 AM PDT

    •  but you present a false dichotomy (7+ / 0-)

      A kid who can solve a quadratic vs. a kid who can balance their checkbook... I'll take the second, please, in 95% of all cases.

      Fact is, the kid who can solve the quadratic will not only be able to balance the checkbook, probably better than the one who can't, but will be able to balance it substantially faster, because of the innate understanding of arithmetic afforded those who can understand the algebra.

      And the solvers will far outpace the nonsolvers in discovering the error if one occurs.

    •  How many people who don't know algebra (7+ / 0-)

      are going to grok compound interest? Especially where credit cards are concerned?

      Algebra is probably the most real world functional math there is.

      •  I failed my algebra classes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and I work in a budget shop doing things even more exotic than compound interest.  Algebra classes are taught quite badly.

        Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

        by Sychotic1 on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:12:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  math courses (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sychotic1, Larsstephens

          ...are taught by math professors/teachers who pound the rote memorization and very poorly constructed "word problems" which don't engage the brain well.

          They SHOULD be taught using a combination of pure math and "not hockey/dumb" real world application examples.  

          A left-of-center blow-harded member of the goose-stepping blog-stapo since 2004.

          by floundericiousMI on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:24:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  yep. wasn't presented in a way that was (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sychotic1, Larsstephens


          my favorite example is that problem with one train northbound going 60mph and the same track southbound going 60mph - what is speed on impact.

          i never did know that answer until i was in my 40s - i was always too concerned on how to get off that bloody train and survive!  if i started running toward the rear cars, would i have sufficient time to make it far enough back that the accordion effect wouldn't get me between cars or would i be thrown forward or would the front cars overturn if i couldn't run fast enough... or should i jump - because if i jumped, like the british buses, there was a forward force that would put me toward the cars accordioning TOWARD where i landed - and what would the force on impact be as i landed.....

          well, when i was in my forties, i found out both answers:  two trains collided somewhere in the northeast and both engineers jumped and survived  and the answer is 120.  (was telling this story to someone who looked at me and quietly said "120" - and i said "WHAAA?"  HE said, add the numbers together and you've got the answer.  120.

          duh!  almost 40 years and not ONE single person had ever been able to teach me that!  SO, my theory is that you  make math applicable to real life and if someone is focused on a different aspect of the problem, enlarge what you teach!  (think vectoring, force, etc.)

          i really DO love math... from a distance!

          "An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it." ~Mahatma Gandhi

          by edrie on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:59:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  grok? Anyways, I don't know a lick of algebra (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and I can find out the interest on my credit card purchases by using arithmetic. I won't say algebra isn't important, but not everybody needs to know it.

        "Progress is possible. Don't give up on voting. Don't give up on activism. There are too many needs to be met, too much work to be done." - Barack Obama

        by eaglekid85va on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:51:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Rec'd for grok. :) nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        :: Not so hopeful now ::

        by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:21:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It is not the higher end of algebra, (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, Sychotic1, Tuba Les, profh, kurt, condorcet

      but rather the ability to take in data, organize it logically, and then set up the correct relationships.  That is why "word problems" - whether they were basic arithmetic, algebra, or calculus are always the hardest.  You have to "see" the relationships in order to set up the problem for solution.

      In my line of work I can't tell you how many times somebody "solves an equation" or "does the math" and comes up with - to anybody who understands what the numbers are meant to represent - an absolutely ridiculous answer.  If you can't tie the numbers back to some actual reality you are dealing with you can be seriously misled.

      •  heh... just wrote about that above. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        funny how i can always get to the right solution - not necessarily by using the standard "rules" but in the end, it's correct.  

        i also can look at numbers and immediately "know" there is something wrong with them - subconscious processing maybe, but i am never wrong when i say "the numbers don't match!"

        whether it is banking, billed statements, auto sale computations, i just "know" that the numbers don't
        "add up" and if you give me a paper and pen, i'll show you where it breaks apart!

        and this from a "kid" who could barely get through math in highschool and college!

        "An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it." ~Mahatma Gandhi

        by edrie on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 03:02:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think this .... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          i also can look at numbers and immediately "know" there is something wrong with them - subconscious processing maybe, but i am never wrong when i say "the numbers don't match!"

          is somehow related to understanding the numbers (in the contexts that most of us deal with) are representations of real things and real relationships.  So when (just as an example) you get an answer that suggests that the time delay between event one and event two is say two hours, you have the ability to take that and integrate it with your real life experience - which might be highly inconsistent with that number.  So - "the numbers don't match" - and off you go to find out whether it is faulty math or faulty assumptions.

          You have a very valuable skill.

          •  i'm really lucky - i don't always know (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            why at first but am persistent enough to keep digging to find the answer.  it drives me nuts when numbers don't justify!

            biggest argument i ever had with sprint was over a 63 and change discrepancy in the bill.  finally they "offered" to "give" me $50 and i flatly refused.  i said to them, you don't "get" to just make this go away - you need to find out where the error is.  it took three months to finally find out there was an extra line being billed to my account after i cancelled an air card.

            soon as we found out, i changed companies.  they don't "get" to be cavalier about the numbers.  

            my former employer incorrectly reported my earnings to unemployment (two employers ago) - i've been fighting like mad to get it corrected because the ramification is huge.  they underreport - pay less in payroll taxes, where does that money go? into whose pocket did the difference disappear?  (with that company, i already know the answer).  and with many employees (over 100), how much total does that add up in a year, two, ten - compounded.

            i loved the movie "office space" JUST for the exposure of what a penny or two diverted over widespread accounts can add up to and how quickly.

            well, my former employer is in for a very unpleasant surprise... he's been caught - and, if i'm not wrong, that spells fraud!

            "An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it." ~Mahatma Gandhi

            by edrie on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 03:47:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I feel sorry for every student who cannot handle (0+ / 0-)

      a basic Alegbra question.  They will be handicaped for life by having a low paying job.  This low paying job will also have small amounts of retirement for the retirement years.

      •  Feel more sorry for... (0+ / 0-)

        ... the ones who drop out of high school due to the continuing sense of failure doled out to them in repeated Algebra classes.

        They have the earning potential of someone who dropped out in grade school.  That's the difference in High School Grad and High School dropout.

        :: Not so hopeful now ::

        by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:23:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Math and science ed. is a social justice issue. (4+ / 0-)

    Math and science is often considered less relevant to the educational mission of preparing students for citizenship than history or literature.  However, students who do not understand some of the theoretical basis for technological modernity enter a world from which they are radically alienated.  And if we are so alienated from technology that it seems to become a force of nature or magic beyond our control we will cease to see ourselves as moral agents shaping our own futures.

    I am all for these practical kinds of justifications for mathematics education, and giving students skills to succeed in the modern economy is critically important.  Failure to impart those skills is a failure of justice in itself.  I just wanted to add that it is equally important to give students some basis for understanding their place in a world that humans increasingly have the power to dramatically reshape, and note that this is an important issue with wide ranging ethical implications.

    Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

    by play jurist on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:28:56 PM PDT

  •  Not only algebra but physics in basketball (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mattman, Magster, Larsstephens

    makes the game possible.  Do the math on a jump shot. ;-)

  •  Most equations are unsolved as yet so computers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    can't be programmed to solve them. Differential equations to mention just one. But them again only an ignorant fool would think that math is now just a machine thing. It is art and language that is more precise then any other human language.

    This is as stupid and ignorant as claiming we know all about medicine or physics or biology or ... I guess if your business is accounting or writing then you can dismiss real science and math.

    Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:38:28 PM PDT

  •  If my daughter's algebra teacher wasn't a troll (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pinecone, Larsstephens

    I'd forward this article to her.  Instead I'll just make my daughter read this diary.

    No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

    by Magster on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:41:56 PM PDT

  •  Great story. But I spot a nit I must pick. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KS Rose, Larsstephens, ariseatex

    *groan*, my students would say.
    The answer to the problem is NOT 24.0000000. It is just plain 24, despite the little white lie our calculator would like us to believe. The reason is that the number "60" that enters as the number of shots per game is NOT 60.0000000. It is "60 ± ?". In other words, the 60, at best, is known only to 2 "significant figures", and so the answer cannot be expressed any more precisely than 2 significant figures. To write down more implies a degree of precision of input data that you don't have, and that is taking liberties with the truth.
    This is a prime example of why the human brain must intercede and override the quick, handy, but still stupid calculating device.

  •  The hillbilly method. (5+ / 0-)

    I just cancelled out the two 60s (the numerator of 60 and the denominator of 60) and ended up with 48/2, (24). I didn’t know I could do ageeelbra.

  •  The shot clock ruined basketball (0+ / 0-)

    Or at least, the 24-second version.  It emphasizes one on one play versus team play.

  •  Math is indeed mostly doable by computer. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, vets74, Larsstephens

    However, any problem that becomes a math problem (I use "math" in its more mundane sense here) likely started our as prose at one point or another. Yes, the dreaded "story problem" is really where applied math begins. Once the story has been turned into symbols and equations (or inequalities), then the solution may be delegated to some computer, either human or machine.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 01:51:07 PM PDT

  •  One great truth in this story - the ability to (4+ / 0-)

    think analytically is a very good thing.

  •  for those of us with math challenges... (5+ / 0-)

    i graduated high school just BARELY passing algebra.  why?  my junior high school teacher spent so much time talking about how he punished his son and how he punished his wife that i totally turned off to the basics.  still plan one day to go relearn for my own sake... but as for algebra in high school, i didn't have a friggin clue how to do it.

    i tuned out the obnoxious teacher as being an *sshole - which he was... and so, my lack of the basics almost undid me in college.

    i put off the math requirement until the last semester of my senior year when, fortunately, i was lucky enough to take one of the first "modern math" classes on computer math. that class let you add 2+2 and get 10!  it was so totally outside of the confines of my previous mental block on math that i actually aced it and to this day, totally understand the structure of computer language - did me well later years working for wang!

    now, never having taken higher math, calculus, physics and almost failing chemistry (thankfully, only 30% was classroom, 70% was the "unknown" that we had all semester to decipher) - i passed with a c for having the ONLY 100% correct diagnosis of my solution!

    it wasn't until i started playing computer games on the huge standalone machines that someone explained to me that the cursor movement was based on (x) lines across and (y) lines down with movement being 3x + 4y did i finally "get" it.

    then, when in the coast guard auxiliary boating courses, vectoring suddenly made sense (if you wanted to sail to england and not end up on the gold coast!) - math became fun.

    okay -- why the diatribe here?  well, at 64, i really feel like i've been cheated out of a whole lifetime of fun with numbers because of one sexist pig who was more interested in impressing a bunch of 14 year old boys and girls about his domination over his wife and son than he was in teaching the excitement of math!  

    harummmpfffff - i'm still p*ssed - at my poor math skills and that jerk who was allowed to spew his nonsense to a bunch of kids instead of teaching us the basics of algebra.  (oh, the second teacher wasn't much better - he sat at the desk with his head buried toward the desk and monotones for two semesters.  ugh.  okay. rant done now.)

    "An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it." ~Mahatma Gandhi

    by edrie on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:53:44 PM PDT

    •  How do you feel about performance-based.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ..teacher pay?

      Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

      by billmosby on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 03:06:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  absolutely opposed to it! (6+ / 0-)

        you cannot pay a teacher based on the student population that varies from community to community - class to class.

        i am a certified secondary bio teacher (even though i never taught high school except for practice teaching, i was head teacher at a day care center in hell's kitchen and i've taught college AND corporate).

        i've seen that some students really do have problems with certain material and the teacher is not going to be able to address that in an overcrowded mixed knowledge level classroom.

        what we REALLY need is better pay, smaller classrooms, widely diversified curriculum to keep the kids fresh and challenged and much much more.

        punishing teachers for the system's failure is not an answer.

        my teacher was from the '50s - at a time when women were essentially non-persons.  i was not of that mindset and was early on what would become known as a "feminist" - so my example is a far cry from today's situation.

        what i'd like to see is more accessibility for teachers to further their education and be challenged in their subjects AND to receive the rightful compensation they deserve.  it is borderline criminal for a teacher to have to, out of his/her own pocket, pay for the supplies the children need.  our education system is sorely broken because of improper allocation of monies and for the nclb fiasco - teaching to the test does NOT teach a child how to learn! it does NOT prepare a child for the real world.  it only teaches them how to cheat.

        "An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it." ~Mahatma Gandhi

        by edrie on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 03:23:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I hear ya on that. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Larsstephens

          I am a retired engineer working as a tutor for an online tutoring service. I really enjoy working with the students in math and physics (as well as other subjects), but they pay people in those areas the same as in all others, even though there is a huge shortage in the math and physics areas. The company advertises 1 on 1 tutoring, so when we have 2 or 3 students concurrently we can't tell them there are others dividing our attention. It would be one thing to have 2 or 3 students all needing help in the same area, but I might have one doing some problem in electric fields, another doing a geometry proof, and sometimes a third one who needs help writing an introduction for a persuasive essay. Or pretty much any mix from any of hundreds of topics. Grade levels can be from about 4 to 12. So I have to bounce between them and try to simulate being one tutor in time slices of 15 to 30 seconds frequently. We get paid the same but generally do 2 or 3 times the work as tutors not in the "shortage" areas. So is that equal pay? Sure, we all get the same $11 per hour (well, actually, the ones who have gotten lots of compliments get that, others get 10), but some of us do 2 or 3 time the work. So am I getting equal pay, or is the tutoring service getting me for 1/2 or 1/3 price? I guess it depends on how you look at it.

          Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

          by billmosby on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 07:47:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  the service is underpaying you! (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            billmosby, Larsstephens

            by not having students in the same category, it is similar to huge class sizes where some get neglected.  either the service needs to block in specific times for specific kids or they need to realize what is occurring.  

            kudos to you for juggling - and maybe your reward will be when one kid suddenly "GETS" it and shares and helps another to do the same!

            can you even begin to imagine a mortgage broker working for $10/11 an hour?  and yet, you and others are expected to prepare the upcoming workforce to understand and function in a complex world on that wage.

            unbelievable! the shortsighted greed of the no more taxes crowd doesn't seem to realize that they are condemning themselves to more schemes like maddof and other perpetuate because the upcoming generation of workers won't be able to recognize what is happening.  so, those "no taxes" people will continue to lose their pensions, their futures, their businesses just like those of us who they condemn to that same fate.

            i loathe ronald reagan and his handlers - those who played to the greed have condemned this nation to 3rd world status in many areas - like education and health and more.

            "An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it." ~Mahatma Gandhi

            by edrie on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 09:31:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yeah, they do need to pay more. (0+ / 0-)

              At least enough so they can attract the people they need; how hard could it be with the unemployment rate we have now? But $10 per hour is about what online tutors get across the board. There's lots of competition from India, for one thing.

              Lucky for me this is somewhat supplemental. I retired 5 years ago on what I knew would be a shoestring, but 5 years of nonperforming IRA investments and the fizzling out of another business plan makes me glad I have this work. Now if we can just get Bernanke to stop talking about reducing social security, I might just be able to make my IRA last as long as I need it to. I have about 6 times the average amount that most boomers are claimed to have saved up for their retirement, and it's not quite barely adequate. So it could be worse, lol!

              Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

              by billmosby on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:38:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Oh, and they do schedule tutoring sessions. (0+ / 0-)

              But they also have instant access, and that's what I do. More scheduling flexibility, and less prep time since there's no way to know who will be needing what at a given time. I actually prefer the instant access because it pays the most per actual working hour. Although I did spend the last 12 months going through my college physics books and working half the problems, plus studying geometry and other things to improve my skills. And along the way I discovered that if I had had to buy those same two books today, it would have cost me about 25 hours of work to buy them. I kept a lot of textbooks from my college days and it looks like I have a 7 or 8 thousand dollar pile of books there, which might have cost me 1/10 of that, at most. There's a racket, I have one pair of advanced math books that were published in 1950 and 53 (Morse and Feshbach) which are still available, for $350 for the set. And they have not been updated as far as I know.

              Anyway, I have been witness to many, many "I get it!" moments in this work and it almost makes up for the pay. I have also been told by my students with some frequency that their teachers "don't do anything"; one tonight said that very thing. And it shows. I often have to teach them some of the basics that they should know to work the problems they bring to me for help. Many times it only takes the working of a few examples and they suddenly understand what they were missing before.

              Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

              by billmosby on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:47:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  doing this from memory (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ed Tracey

    but a few years ago I read that all the college maths majors were higher by 1) Wall Street and 2) NSA

    When we went up to that gate you were all pushing that gate open. That's how we got through. - Speaker Pelosi

    by anyname on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 03:37:54 PM PDT

  •  In my professional life (4+ / 0-)

    I've often needed to reduce fractions.

    We had to find the next gear in a geartrain.  Now I'm an electronic engineer, but I was watching the two old-school mechanical engineers going at it, and frankly I was getting fed up.

    So I wrote out the equation, figured the gearing needed, and presented my idea.  They whipped out the calculators (without checking the equation) and complained that I was wrong by a factor of 10.

    No, I told them, they needed to reduce the fractions.  You see they took all of the numbers in the numerators, multiplied them together, and then wrote that on paper.  Then did the same with the denominator, and divided them.

    That gave them a 13-digit number.  But the calculator only permitted 12 digit entry!

    So naturally, doing it without reduction led them to a factor or 10 error.

    Sometimes you have to think about a problem, before you break out the technology.

  •  Thank you! (4+ / 0-)

    My parents never cared if I got good grades in math (I was a girl, after all!) As a women in her prime (almost 50, hehe) I can tell you that I have used math MORE in my life than I have ever used history or literature.

    As the parent of a girls I harped on them about math and even science. Getting good grades in the humanities wasn't enough...I got them tutors and extra help whenever it was needed.

    Math teaches you how to think and solve trains your brain, so to speak. I think the problem with math is that people's brains are different in how they conceptualize it (which is why, I theorize, we have "New Math" every ten years!) We need better math teachers and we need to understand much more about how the brain works and how it develops. Math is something you WILL use for the rest of your life and yes it IS THAT IMPORTANT.

    •  Math is very important! (3+ / 0-)

      Any you made a very important point about teaching people how to think to solve problems.

      I'm finding, though, that in my daughter's classes, they don't teach the thinking part much, they teach the solution and it's application, but they don't teach asking questions to find the solution, which is important in understanding patterns, and finding new equations.

      Somehow,Biasone understood that.  I'm finding that with most of the education my daughter gets, it's taught to the test, and doesn't teach thinking.

  •  I am a former math teacher who went into (3+ / 0-)

    computers and retired after 30 years.

    Then I became a substitute math teacher in Plano, TX, because I heard they needed math teachers.

    I taught high school algebra, which I had done many years before.

    When we came to the point in the class where we learned to develop formulas from data points we stopped. I couldn't believe it. The administration said that we should use calculators.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning.

    by hestal on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 04:23:58 PM PDT

  •  Just got in from a long day (3+ / 0-)

    What a nice read. Thanks so much for making me smile about something other than politics.

  •  Yay math! (3+ / 0-)

    Thanks for the great diary!

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