Following Recipes

Another pep talk with the class, another metaphor hijacked. This is a theme in my life.

Me: Remember, guys. Math isn’t just about following a recipe.

Student #1: It isn’t?

Me: No! Math is about logical reasoning. If I only wanted to teach you how to be detail-oriented and copy an example, we’d have a cooking class. You’d still learn to follow directions, and at the end we’d have a tasty cake, instead of some silly graph.

Student #1: Yeah! Why don’t we have cooking class?

Me: Oh… well…

Student #3: Yeah! What if we’re not really learning all that conceptual logic stuff? You’re saying we should give up on math class and just learn how to bake cakes, right?

Me: No! If that’s the case, we should –

Student #2: Yeah! Cake for everybody!

All students: Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake!

9 thoughts on “Following Recipes

      1. Cake cake cake cake! Now I want to do a cooking class with my students (thanks for the link!)

        I actually think that’d be great, because even though everyone is following the same directions, everyone’s cake would be slightly different, just like everyone’s solutions to math problems are slightly different.

  1. I knew Maddox was wrong!

    “Sucking at math is like sucking at cooking. I’m tired of eating shitty food because you’re too much of a dipshit to follow a recipe. Also, I’m tired of hearing people brag about how they can’t cook like it’s some kind of badge of honor. It’s like a race to the bottom with you people. I always hear people one-upping each other about how inept they are at cooking. If you don’t know how to chop up a few carrots to make a decent soup, take your life.

    Math is exactly like cooking: just follow the recipe. Symbols look confusing? Can’t figure out how to solve a problem? All I hear is, “Waaah! Boo-hoo! I didn’t read the introduction to the chapter that tells me exactly how to solve this generic category of problems!””

    1. He later adds: “And when I say “math” here, I’m talking specifically about the only category of math that 99% of people know about: applied. It’s a failure of teachers everywhere to expose people to the much less commonly known branch of mathematics: theoretical.” He’s not using the applied/theoretical distinction in quite the way most mathematicians would, but at least he acknowledges that PARTS of math involve more than following instructions.

      Anyway, hadn’t seen that post before–belligerence aside, it’s an interesting take. I’d agree that executing algorithms is important. But it’s far from the ONLY important thing.

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