Kitchen > PrivateWebHome > WebLog > NerdReport > KitchenTableMathWitAndWisdom

You never know when you'll want to look up a Bessel Function while reading Trout Fishing in America.
- SteveH

A little knowledge goes way too far.
- SteveH

What is knowledge? What is truth? What is understanding? What is 6 times 7?
- SteveH

Blah, blah, woof, woof.
- SteveH

Consider this the first sign of the Apocalypse.
- Ken

## A

##### Abbott & Costello

Abbott and Costello often featured some aspect of mathematics in their routines. One of their routines very clearly gets at the topic of limits, though I don't know if they realized this when they did it. In any event, it appears that Abbott is using a constructivist technique with Costello--he asks an ill-posed question and Costello "discovers" the wrong conclusion:

Abbott: You're 40 years old, and you're in love with a little girl, say 10 years old. You're four times as old as that girl. You couldn't marry that girl, could you?

Costello: No.

Abbott: So you wait 5 years. Now the little girl is 15, and you're 45. You're only three times as old as that girl. So you wait 15 years more. Now the little girl is 30, and you're 60. You're only twice as old as that little girl. ?

Costello: She's catching up.

Abbott: Here's the question. How long do you have to wait before you and that little girl are the same age?

Costello: What kind of question is that? That's ridiculous. If I keep waiting for that girl, she'll pass me up. She'll wind up older than I am. Then she'll have to wait for me!
(from Barry Garelick)
20 Jul 2005

Addition is "souped-up counting forward", and subtraction is souped-up counting backward.
-- Carolyn Johnston (why is subtraction harder than addition?)

##### AP calculus

AP Calculus is like a brick wall located in the high schools.
Becky C

##### autism quotient quiz

12 Apparently, my hatred of structure trumps my hatred of chit-chat.
- Ken DeRosa

## B

##### best practices
Intentionally fostering confusion in students is really remarkably stupid.
- Doug Sundseth

blame the student
They used to call it Differentiated Instruction, but that seemed to imply some sort of responsibility on the teacher's part. Just like they used to call it an "academic ceiling", which implies a problem with the schools. Now they call it a "performance ceiling", which puts the problem and onus on the student.
- Steve

Boy, if I ever send any resumes out I think I'll also send some fabulous letters of recommendations written by me. That should convince them.
Susan S on NSF Annotated Bibliography

## C

##### calculators in the classroom
A student must realize that a calculator may take the equation x = (1/3)*3 and give 0.999999999999 not 1 and not realize the answer is 1 not 0.999999999999.
- Jeff Hertzel

##### calculus
Calculus is not hard for algebra ninjas.
- Rudbeckia Hirta

Calculus is just algebra with teensy-weensy increments.

Checking Your Work Again is the brussels sprouts of schoolwork.
Carolyn

Apparently, even having your parent check your work is the Brussels sprouts of schoolwork.
Catherine

##### children and learning
We often think that, in addition to learning, kids should also have fun. What this fails to understand is that, before they become cynical, LEARNING IS FUN for kids. They love to learn stuff, and they love to show off what they know.
Dan K

I used to tell people that my son is a sponge for knowledge, but the school is feeding him with a teaspoon.
Steve H

Clarke's Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. (Arthur C. Clarke)
quoted by Doug Sundseth

##### conceptual understanding
Conceptual understanding gives you the identity properties. True understanding gives you algebra.
- Steve

##### confusion

I am still confused, but at a much higher level.
--Instructivist

Connected Math
I was trying to dig up information on Investigations this weekend to assist me in connecting the boys' curriculum at school with our Singapore curriculum at home. The parent letters given out with each Investigations unit, and the game rules for each homework activity, are inadequate to explain the point of each activity. The desirable, final, procedural, and conceptual point of each activity. Lacking a Teacher's Guide, I have to rely on my Superior Reasoning Skills to figure out the point. Until January, when I may get up the courage to ask for my own copy of the Teacher's Guide, to keep. Which is probably illegal.
Becky C

## D

##### Dick and Jane
I can't think of a more mind-numbing way for a kid to practice reading than the Dick and Jane books. I despise them with all my being.
- Brenda

## E

##### Everyday Math (Chicago Math)

As a special education teacher for DPS, I can tell you that Everyday Math has done for math what whole language did for reading. We have seen an increase in special education referrals for math problems since the program began.
- teacher in Rocky Mountain News

##### experts

I've quoted Steve and Ken so much I'm starting to sound like I know what I'm talking about.
- Susan S

## F

##### fear of flying
A while ago someone, possibly Professor Irwin Corey, observed that if God had intended us to fly He would have given us tickets.

I can't think of any greater reason to be fearful of flying.
- Robert Stacy

Filet of sole is the celery of fish.
--Catherine (I'm sorry. This has nothing to do with math. It's the one saying I've come up with in my life that I remember.)

## G

##### getting better all the time

Now, the teachers are better and they work harder for kids, especially at the lowest levels. Our average math scores are higher. This is with MathLand and no full course in algebra in eighth grade. Everything is great, right?

Except for the student who finds him/herself on a math track to nowhere in high school. Game Over.
- Steve H

I had gone to [a psychologist] because I wanted to have hard IQ evidence of the math kid's giftedness in case the school wasn't going to intervene. I was also perfectly prepared to hear from him that my son was just good ole' average. Anyway, while I was introducing myself on the phone and describing my son, the psychologist asked me which parent was gifted, my husband or me. I was a bit stunned by the question so the only thing I could come back with was, "Whoever won the last argument."

While we don't use labels around the house (I have never used the word "gifted" with math kid or learning disabled with my other son), my husband and I have a quiet running gag with each other. If one of us does or says something dumb, the other never misses a chance to say, "You are soooo not the gifted parent." Susan S

## H

##### helicopter parents
Our kids may need therapy when they grow up due to their demanding moms, but at least they'll have a job. I can live with that.
(Susan S)

##### humor
Teacher: Suppose x is the number of sheep. Student: But suppose x is not the number of sheep?

Old joke reprinted in G. H. Hardy's "A Mathematician's Miscellany". Hardy comments about the joke: "I asked Prof. Wittgenstein were this not a profound philosophical joke and he said it was."
contributed by: Barry Garelick

## I

I speak to Mr. Larson and Stiff everyday (and not in a nice way) since they are two of the three authors of this Heath Algebra I book we have been enduring for the last couple of months. It also has "Career Interviews" every so often in between the calculator lessons and various charts and graphs. These guy's personal stories of how they use (or don't use) math take up a solid third of the page.
Susan on Heath Algebra 1, by Lee Stiff, former head of NCTM

##### is math hard?
math is hard to understand.
but it's easier to understand than anything else.
Vlorbik

i spent one of my worst half-hours in grad school
convinced that 3*12 = 39.
- Vlorbik

It's all dorking around in the dark, and no satisfaction when you get the answer.
- Bernie Johnston on 'challenge' problems

## K

##### kids say the darndest things

When we were studying measurement my daughter said to me, "I know why pound is abbreviated using lb. It is because lb looks just like 16 and there are 16 ounces in a pound."
- Lone Ranger

They don't understand. When they make math fun, it's MORE BORING.
- Christopher, age 10

## M

##### magical number 7, plus or minus 2
I didn't so much hit the magic number 7 as I got splattered against it head-first.
-- IndependentGeorge
ref: tour de force

##### math isn't hard
John Saxon often said, "Mathematics is not difficult. Mathematics is just different, and time is the elixir that turns things different into things familiar.
- Stephen Hake Saxon Math Homeschool 6/5 Third edition, page xiii

Millionaire bub

Multiplication and division are the big brothers, and addition and subtraction are the little brothers. And multiplication and division are cousins.
- Christopher, age 10

## P

### page splatter

Just looking at a typical page, I feel my attention batted about in a pinball trajectory. Holding a thought for the length of a Glencoe page is quite a challenge.
--wiredweird; Glencoe page splatter

## R

The NCTM is very fond of having students solve problems with crude methods that don't generalize.
- Charles Williams

It is possible for students to construct for themselves the mathematical practices that, historically, took several thousand years to evolve.
Cobb, P., Yackel, E. & Wood, T. (1992). A constructivist alternative to the representational view of mind in mathematics education. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 23, 2-33.

It's time to recognize that, for many students, real mathematical power, on the one hand, and facility with multidigit, pencil-and-paper computational algorithms, on the other, are mutually exclusive. In fact, it's time to acknowledge that continuing to teach these skills to our students is not only unnecessary, but counterproductive and downright dangerous.
- Steve Leinwand: a Steve Leinwand sampler (scroll down)

### the Rapture

I feel like there has been a RAPTURE and everyone has been bodily taken up from the kitchen to Kumon. Hey guys, am I the only one left cranking out my own worksheets for my kids??? Have you guys bought stock in Kumon??? What's going on? You're going to need to change the name of the wiki...
Becky C

### reform math

Roger Shouse, Penn State Bottom Line for Math Students: Good Teaching Is What Counts By ALAN J. BORSUK Oct. 6, 2003 Journal Sentinel

### on Russian mathematicians

They've got chops.
- Carolyn J

## S

### school

School is about opening doors, not closing them or saying that the doors don't exist in the first place.
- Steve H

### spiral curriculum

Spiral learning isn't over-learning, it is just repeated under-learning.
- Susan J

super math mom
Thanks to the great Liping Ma, I was Johnny-on-the-Spot Super Math Mom and was able to show in a very simplified way the two different ways you might be asked to divide.
- Susan

Sometimes I just wonder where they parked their common sense.
- Susan

## T

##### teaching maths
My job is to give you three different explanations. Your job is to understand one of them.
source: "Mr. Fang had a math teacher who said 'My job is to give you three different explanations. Your job is to understand one of them,' and I think that's the right idea." Cardinal Fang

My basic message to [Ben], when he objects to doing any sort of homework (which he does frequently), has been: Too Bad, we all have to work a little bit; here's your carrot if you buckle down and get it done, and here's your stick if you don't. I figure I'm just being his frontal lobes until the day (if it ever comes) when he can use his own. Rational arguments about his future in the global technological marketplace don't seem to make much of a dent, at least not yet (I'm sure he'll thank me profusely when he's older, though).
- Carolyn J

##### textbooks
For example, [text]books shouldn't show pictures of the sea, because desert-dwellers might not be familiar with it.

By extension, textbooks probably shouldn't refer to Planet Earth since it's alien to much of the public school establishment.
Verghis Koshi

This is classic, modern, ed school math. No problems can have only one answer. Why? Because they say so. Because they don't like the focus on getting only the one right answer. Because they think that in the Real World, there are no (or very few) one right answers. They think that having one right answer means that the kids will focus only on the answer and not the process.

Second, they don't like mathematical techniques, rules, or algorithms. That is why you see them go WAY out of their way to find problems that can't be solved by traditional methods, viz. equations. They don't have a clue about M is less than N, M equals N, and M is greater than N type problems. They don't understand that in the Real World, the goal is one best answer. This could involve creating a merit function or using some statistical least squares technique. This doesn't include Guess and Check where any old solution is good enough.
- Steve H on multiple answer math

## U

### understanding math

In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
- John von Neumann

## W

### wrestling

Wrestling relaxes me when I have stress.
- Christopher Berenson

Roller Derby was my favorite at 13, because it was violent, hokey and fake.
- Ben Calvin

## Z

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W A Y Z

-- CatherineJohnson - 20 Jul 2005

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When we were studying measurement my daughter said to me, "I know why pound is abbreviated using lb. It is because lb looks just like 16 and there are 16 ounces in a pound."

-- LoneRanger - 23 Jul 2005

WOW! That kid is a smartie!

-- CarolynJohnston - 23 Jul 2005

"It is because lb looks just like 16 and there are 16 ounces in a pound."

What a great mnemonic device!

Gotta remember that one. Now I need a mnemonic device to remember to remember.

A bit of wit I like a lot is to exclaim after a mathematical explanation of some tricky problem: I am still confused, but at a much higher level.

Instructivist

-- KtmGuest - 25 Jul 2005

Teacher: Suppose x is the number of sheep. Student: But suppose x is not the number of sheep?

Old joke reprinted in G. H. Hardy's "A Mathematician's Miscellany". Hardy comments about the joke: "I asked Prof. Wittgenstein were this not a profound philosophical joke and he said it was."

-- BarryGarelick - 17 Sep 2005

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