Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Math Isn't Everything. It Isn't Even the Only Thing.

Math isn't everything. It isn't even the only thing.

That may sound shocking coming from me, but theoretical math (you know, a lot of that Algebra stuff) needs to be applied to real life using real life conditions, which sometimes (most times?) take you out of the scope of any classroom problem. This is why some people don't think they're using algebra (when, in fact, they are), or why they think it isn't really practical.

A quick example of what I mean: there's a joke floating around that goes something like this: only in a math class can you buy 36 oranges and 25 apples and not be thought crazy.

Here's a different example (not a joke). Each weekend in August, the Miller family barbecues six hot dogs. Buns come in packages of eight. Over four weekends, how many packages of buns should they buy?

Don't scroll down until you're ready for the answer.

The "correct" answer is four packages.

Now, wait a minute, you protest! The cook 24 franks, they need 24 buns, and you get 24 buns in three packages of eight.

That is certainly true. On the second weekend, you still have 2 buns leftover from the prior weekend. This brings the next question -- the real world question -- who gets the stale buns? Probably the shy, quiet one who doesn't speak up for himself. Or the youngest one who doesn't know any better. Most likely, Mom, who who sacrifice for her children, giving them the food from her mouth if need be, assuming she wanted two hot dogs to begin with. (Take better care of Mom, she's been good to you!)

In the real world, even if the bread hasn't reached it's expiration date, those leftovers still won't be as fresh as new rolls will be. Moreover, consider the fourth weekend. All of the bread is leftover, and no one gets a fresh roll. If you're not on a really tight budget, buy new bread each week.

What do you do with the extra bread? Feed the birds. Make breadcrumbs. Have a really funky looking sandwich on Monday.

What do I know? I'm a math teacher, not a cook.


Anonymous said...

Do you know what the answer to the perimeter question and interior angle?

(x, why?) said...

I answered you on twitter, I think. The perimeter was 35 and the angle was 108. Check the Geometry Regents thread tomorrow for more information.