Learn Your Math! – Don’t Be Stupid Human

I’ll never forget my high school math teacher, he taught math in my sophomore, junior, and senior year which including algebra II, trigonometry, calculus, and so on. At first, I was mostly bored in his classes, because it seemed at the beginning of each year it was just a refresher course of what I’d already learned. And since I was bored, and a Smart Alec I used to crack jokes, and I suppose I got away with this because I was in the top of the class. But my math teacher knew how to shut me up quick; he’d start writing stuff on the blackboard that looked like hieroglyphics.

And then he would say to me “Okay Mr. Smarty-Pants what’s the answer?” And sometimes I could follow along and I’d get lucky and have the right answer, but mostly he was playing around with mathematics that was over my head at the time, totally challenging me. Then after he’d put me in my place, he’d refer to me during the rest of the class as; “old numb nuts over here, yada, yada,” but we always got along good, because he was also the adult advisor for our HS chess club.

The other day, I was talking with a retired high school mathematics teacher, and it reminded me of the good old days, and something that I often imagined Richard A. Muller saying. If your don’t know Muller, he is the Berkeley Professor who teaches the class “Physics for Future Presidents – The Science behind the Headlines,” which is also the title of his best-selling book. I don’t know why I imagine Richard A. Muller PhD. saying this, but I just do, I hear him in my thoughts saying;

“Don’t Be Stupid Human, Learn Your Math!”

And as you know we need to challenge our kids in high school, but we also need to make mathematics fun and interesting, because if we lose their interest, they won’t learn anything, they won’t enjoy the subject, and therefore they won’t try, or care. One of the best things I think a mathematics professor can do is when they are teaching they should give examples of what happens if you mess up the equation, or get the wrong answer to a word problem.

After all, most all math teachers, especially when they begin to higher math to new students need to keep it interesting by using real world examples of problems to solve. Maybe what we should be doing, is showing what would happen if the kids get the wrong answer. In other words, a passenger train crashes into a freight train, a car fails to make the turn, or your bubble bath floods your apartment, and your neighbors below you. Because that makes the math real, and it makes it really important, but most of all, it makes it fun.

It’s up to the professors and teachers to show why math is so important, and what happens when humans don’t learn their math. You know all the stupid things that humans do because they don’t study their math, or get the wrong answer. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.