Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why YOU need MATH

"Plato, whose mathematical knowledge was broadly up to date, could converse with the mathematicians as an equal and a problem presenter, even though his personal mathematical achievements were not significant."- Taken from is God a mathematician? by Mario Livio.

This is something I try to instill in my students constantly. They don't need to be amazing mathematicians in order to be good at math, nor do they have to be straight-A math students to contribute to mathematical discussion. Here's something else I tell my students:
"The science of figures, to a certain degree, is not only indispensably requisite in every walk of civilized life; but investigation of mathematical truths accustoms the mind to method and correctness in reasoning, and is an employment peculiarly worthy of rational being."
Okay, I don't say it in these words. George Washington said this (as taken from is God a mathematician?). More than 230 years ago, good ol' George Washington realized the importance of math in everyday life.

Okay so WHY is this important? Why am I talking about Plato and George Washington? How is this relevant to today? Well yesterday I saw a mud-slinging campaign commercial, saying that since Obama took office, unemployment has risen 20% and gas 110%. To be honest, I have never looked at the figures for unemployment. It's fair to say that I haven't studied gas prices either, but I drive and I do know my math. Around this time last year, gas was almost $4 a gallon (in southwest Virginia - don't pull the "oh our gas is so much more in ___ because it counts as part of your cost of living being higher and therefor your pay directly varies. In plain English: you get paid more so you can afford higher gas). Then gas prices went down to well below $3, went back up, and now sits around $2.29. Okay, so it has gone up and down, but that's all within Obama's administration. Well, according to CNN, in May of 2008 (that's right, before Obama) gas prices hit $3.75 and were still rising. That's the same as what's happened these last 3 years. Gas goes up - gas goes down.

Sort of lost? Maybe you're still following but this is what it boils down to: if something increases by 100%, that means you take the original amount and double it. If gas has risen by more than 100% that would mean it has more than doubled. Clearly, this is not the case. This is where statistics become misleading. Gas has increased by 110%, but I don't know to which year they are comparing these statistics. Heck, gas has risen- well, what percent is $4 out of $0 - such as when we drove horse and buggies! How ridiculous is it to fake statistics like this? This is in no way pro- or anti- Obama or any other way political. This is merely a pro-mathematics rant.

YOU NEED MATH to be an intelligent, responsible and active citizen of this fair country. You need to be able to watch TV, read the newspaper, and take in information all around you, analyze it, and create your own, well-informed decisions.

This is one among billions of ways that I use math every day. You do, too.

Be mathy!

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