Prologue

I am a high school math teacher, currently teaching Geometry only.  I am starting a blog at the behest of the mathtwitterblogosphere, in hopes that reflecting on my practice will make me a better teacher.  The title of my blog refers to my response to students who ask where “in the real world” they’re going to use math.  There’s more to the answer, of course, but that’s the sound bite.

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3 comments on “Prologue

  1. Amy Zimmer says:

    Hi Steve
    Glad I read a few posts before I found this one. You are most fortunate, as are your students, that you studied physics. It makes sense that “it is all math” to the linear types, even the physical ones, ie, my sister’s bestie who is a prima with sf ballet, and yet, if I had not decided to complete my math degree and credential 28 years ago as a means of entering the Peace Corp ( haven’t gone yet, but that is another story), I would have wanted to be a writer, and is it all math for them? ( too many of them publicly admit they stunk/stink at it)
    Perhaps this is why my favorite show is “Freakonomics,” the perfect blend of witty words and mathematics!
    We can’t all be geeks…can we?

  2. Responding out of order: I love Freakonomics myself. One of the (too) many podcasts that I never miss.

    I would agree that we can’t all be geeks. It takes all kinds to run a society. But that’s not really what I mean when I say “it’s all math”. I don’t mean that everyone can/should be great at math per se. It’s more like, “there’s math everywhere”.

    I had wanted to be a writer myself. (I still do, to be honest.) There are concrete math issues for writers, such as being asked to write a piece of x-thousand words, or being paid by the word. Sales, number of commenters and average rating on Amazon, place on the NYT Bestseller List. (Shoot for the moon, I say!) Number of views of one’s blog, perhaps?

    But there are all sorts of “fuzzier” math aspects to writing. Authors have idiosyncratic usages of various parts of speech (for example), such that there’s an algorithm (or more than one) that can find the *pattern* in a piece of writing that is unique to a given writer. Average number of adjectives per sentence, that sort of thing. There’s also *pattern* (which is a mathematical topic, remember) in how an author balances sentence lengths, or paragraphs, or chapters. They use things like this to try and determine which parts of the Bible were written by the same author, or whether the same author could have written all the works attributed to Shakespeare.

    So I suggest that there’s math all over everything, if you look at it the right way.

    A related question, that I won’t go into here because I’m supposed to be grading quizzes, is whether math skills are *transferable* to ballet or writing or what have you. That could be another important way in which “it’s all math”.

    • Amy Zimmer says:

      Too much fun to be grading papers! I concur, Math is everywhere, and would one’s limited knowledge of Algebra prevent them from writing a fine piece of poetry or the next best seller? Dunno, except that I would suspect that in general, respected novelists and poets are “educated,” and are curious folk. (There is a line from Snow Falling on Cedars where the rain is falling parabolically at the window!) What would Sherman Alexie say? Isabelle Allende? Peter Sagal?
      Thanks Steve for your thoughts and curiosity…keep it coming!

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