Math

Calculator fun:

111,111,111
x
111,111,111
=
12345678987654321

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"President Bush says our schools need to do a better job of teaching mathematics, and I agree with him 150 percent. Many high school students today can't even calculate a square root! Granted, I can't calculate a square root, either, but I USED to be able to, for a period of approximately 15 minutes back in 1962. At least I THINK that was a square root. It might have been a logarithm.

But whatever it was, if I had to learn how to do it, these kids today should have to learn it, too. As President Bush so eloquently put it in his address to Congress: "Mathematics are one of the fundamentaries of educationalizing our youths." I could not have said it better with a 10-foot pole. We all need mathematics to solve problems that come up constantly in the "real world."

For example, suppose four co-workers go to a restaurant, and at the end of the meal, the waiter brings a bill totaling $34.57. How much, including tip, does each person owe? If the co-workers do not know mathematics, they will just guess at the answer and put in random amounts of money ranging from $9 to $11. Unless, of course, one of them is a guy I used to work with named Art, in which case he will make a big show of studying the bill, then put in exactly $4.25.

But if the co-workers know their mathematics, they can easily come up with EXACTLY the correct answer. They can do this using algebra, which was invented by the ancient Persians. They also invented the SATs, although they got very low scores because in those days there were no pencils. The way algebra works is, if you don't know exactly what a number is, you just call it "x." The Persians found that this was a BIG mathematical help
in solving problems:

PERSIAN WIFE (suspiciously): How much have you had to drink?

PERSIAN HUSBAND: I had "x" beers.

PERSIAN WIFE: Well, how much is THAT?

PERSIAN HUSBAND: It's a (burp) variable.

PERSIAN WIFE (not wanting to look stupid): Well, OK then.

Historical Footnote: Several years later, when the ancient Romans invented Roman numerals, and it turned out that "X" was actually equal to 10, there was BIG TROUBLE in Persia.

But getting back to the four co-workers at the restaurant: To figure out how much each person owes, they would simply use the algebraic equation AEPO1/4$34.57+T(((SA?)(+NSOB!)(-SITE)(H).

"AEPO" is the amount each person owes, "T" is the tip, "SA" is whether the waiter has a snotty attitude, "NSOB" is whether the waiter has a nice set of buns, "SITE" is a variable used if you think somebody in the kitchen is spitting in the entrees, and "H" is hydrogen. Using this equation, our four co-workers can easily calculate that each one owes exactly, let's see ... carry the 7 ... OK, it would probably be somewhere between $9 and $11.

So we see that algebra is a vital tool for our young people to learn. The traditional method for teaching it, of course, is to require students to solve problems developed in 1928 by the American Association of Mathematics Teachers Obsessed With Fruit. For example:

"If Billy has twice as many apples as Bobby, and Sally has seven more apples than Chester, who has one apple in each hand plus one concealed in his knickers, then how many apples does Ned have, assuming that his train leaves Chicago at noon?"

The problem is that these traditional algebra problems are out of date. Today's young people are dealing with issues such as violence, drugs, sex, eating disorders, stress, low self-esteem, acne, global warming and the
demise of Napster. They don't have time to figure out how many apples Ned has. If they need to know, they will simply ASK Ned, and if he doesn't want to tell them, they will hold him upside down over the toilet until he does.

And then Ned will sue them, plus the school, plus his parents for naming him "Ned" in the first place. Ultimately the ACLU will get the Supreme Court to declare that the number of apples a student has is protected by his constitutional right to privacy.

So what is the solution? How do we balance our children's need to learn math against the many other demands placed on them by modern life? I believe there IS a solution, one that is both simple and practical.

I call it: ' x.' "-Dave Barry

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"The mathematician has reached the highest rung on the ladder of human thought." Havelock Ellis (1859-1939), British sexologist.

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"God is real, unless declared integer."

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"Math illiteracy strikes 8 out of 5 people."

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"Life is good for only two things, discovering mathematics and teaching mathematics." -Simon Poisson.

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"According to my calculations, this problem doesn't exist."

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"Belief is no substitute for arithmetic." -Henry Spencer.

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"I never could make out what those damned dots meant." -Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-95), British Conservative politician. Referring to decimal points.

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"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." -Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

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"Alcohol and calculus don't mix. Never drink and derive."

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"One has to be able to count, if only so that at fifty one doesn't marry a girl of twenty." -Maxim Gorky.

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"One geometry cannot be more true than another; it can only be more convenient. Geometry is not true, it is advantageous." -Robert T. Pirsig (1928-), US writer. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

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"Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater." -Albert Einstein.

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"I like mathematics because it is not human and has nothing particular to do with this planet or with the whole accidental universe because, like Spinoza's God, it won't love us in return." -Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), British philosopher.

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"The whole is more than the sum of the parts." -Aristotle (384-322 BC)

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"I knew a mathematician who said 'I do not know as much as God. But I know as much as God knew at my age'." -Milton Shulman (1925-), Canadian writer, journalist, and critic.

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"Round numbers are always false." -Samuel Johnson (1709-84), British lexicographer.

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"No, it is a very interesting number, it is the smallest number expressible as a sum of two cubes in two different ways." -Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920), Indian mathematician. The mathematician G. H. Hardy had referred to the number '1729' as 'dull'.

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"Engineers think that equations approximate the real world. Scientists think that the real world approximates equations. Mathematicians are unable to make the connection."

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"Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math." -Bumper sticker.

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"It is rare to find learned men who are clean, do not stink and have a sense of humour." -Montesquieu (1689-1755) about Leibniz (1646-1716).

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"There are 3 kinds of people: those who can count and those who can't." -Bumper sticker.

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"Chess is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever when they are only wasting their time." -George Bernard Shaw.

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"The number you have dialed is imaginary. Rotate phone 90 degrees and try again."

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"Sobrit, rigueur et exactitude sont les trois mamelles des mathmatiques." -Manix.

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"Math sucks." -Jimmy Buffett.