“The Last Time You Used Algebra Was…” – a fascinating article from the NY Times – how many of us use algebra or calculus long after school life was over? Donald G. McNeil, Jr., notes:

Most experts point out that careers in science or computers require mathematics, even when it is not a real job skill but a filter for the lazy or stupid, as passing freshman physics is for pre-med students. (Disclosure: me, for example.) Physics requires calculus, calculus requires algebra and trigonometry, and so on. One must start early.

In the age of Googling and spell-checking, noted Diane Ravitch, the education historian, the “so what?” question could be asked about learning virtually any subject.

“But a democratic society demands an educated populace,” she said. “Why spend hundreds of billions on public education if we’re going to sling it over our shoulder?”

But the best defense – the first to get beyond the utilitarian argument – came from a certain Miss Collins. She is my daughter’s math teacher at a school where there are no boys to distract or intimidate calculating young women.

“If you ask the girls,” she said, “they’ll say it’s another hoop they have to jump through to get into a good college.”

She feels otherwise.

“What we do isn’t exactly what mathematicians do,” she explained. “And I know more alums here become artists than become mathematicians. But kids don’t study poetry just because they’re going to grow up to be poets. It’s about a habit of mind. Your mind doesn’t think abstractly unless it’s asked to – and it needs to be asked to from a relatively young age. The rigor and logic that goes into math is a good way for your brain to be trained.”

Studying poetry is analogous to studying math? Something to justify education in general? Now there’s a thought.

Fascinating article on the art of the sitcom – or, at least, how the format can work: NY Times’ Alexandra Jacobs discusses how CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” may be the successor to “Everyone Loves Raymond” – it’s a goofy yet funny show, where it’s only goal is to make you laugh at a lovingly dysfunctional family. Jacobs notes:

The two leads played true to type: [Jon] Cryer bungled his lines several times, necessitating
multiple takes; [Charlie] Sheen was a perfect smoothie. For those who remember these two men’s earlier incarnations as Brat Packers, there is something very endearing about seeing
them, now both 39 and a bit battered-looking, sequestered in the cozily domestic confines of a television comedy.

Ah, yeah – that’s right – two old Brat Packers. What is the world coming to?! Well, it’s a funny show (although, Sheen’s character has a stalker, which is bizarre…)

Have a good week…

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