X equals just about everything I learned of math in school
By DAVE BARRY
I could not have said it better with a 10-foot pole. We all need mathematics in order 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 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: 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 AEPO=1/4$34.57+T(((-SA?)@ 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 For example: The problem is that these traditional algebra problems are out of date.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.'' |