Fake an Answer and Run Away

a weekly roundup of cartoons, links, and strategies for when people ask you arithmetic questions that you don’t know

First, the cartoons (which you can see early by liking the MWBD Facebook page, or following me on Twitter):

2017.10.16 multiplying in other bases

To clarify: no integer base gives the conclusion 8 x 7 = 54, because 52 is not a multiple of 5. You can change the meanings of the symbols, but at that point, you might as well just claim to live in a base-10 world where 6 and 4 have swapped places.

That said, I find this is a good tactic, because the modular arithmetic slows people down enough for you to make your getaway.

2017.10.17 ringo the best beatle

This one generated lots of controversy on Facebook.

On reflection, it’s weird to label John as the second least-insufferable Beatle. (There’s a case for him being the most insufferable.) On the other hand, I’m underrating John by excluding the z-axis of “coolness” (on which he wins by a mile) so it balances out.

Also, I love George. He was many things: a brilliant guitarist, a sharp lyricist, a next-level songwriter. But he was not sufferable. The man wrote Piggies. Even his best stuff is tinged with insufferability. (“I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping”?!)

But please, feel free to rip me to shreds in the comments.

2017.10.19 radical skepticism

This is pretty much how it goes when you teach “Theory of Knowledge.”

Step 1: We know lots of things.

Step 2: But how do we knoooooow? We don’t know anything!

Step 3: Okay, maybe we don’t italicized know anything, but we know lots of things.


2017.10.20 brick

Don’t think of this joke as hopelessly dated. Think of it as a 20th anniversary!

And now, the links:

Evelyn Lamb assigns household chores to various mathematicians. For example, number theorists:

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily want them to be balancing your budget or calculating a tip, but they are excellent at dusting. They are no strangers to time-consuming, frustrating tasks, so they won’t even bat an eye at dusting the baseboards and crown molding.

Patrick Honner revisits a controversy over whether it’s good algebraic hygiene perform the same operation to both sides of an algebraic identity:

While it’s nice to see mathematically valid work finally receiving full credit on this type of problem, it’s no consolation to the many students who lost points for doing the same thing the year before. What’s especially frustrating is that, as usual, those responsible for creating these exams will admit no error nor accept any responsibility for it.

Three years old now, but well worth reading, is Shecky’s interview with Fawn Nguyen, a beloved figure on math teacher Twitter, because she says things like this:

Consensus in education – that’s like finding tofu in bouillabaisse.

And this:

Mathematics is my passion, and kids are my love – one fuels my head, the other expands my heart. That’s grace. My school feels like home, sans bathrobe and slippers.

And heck, the interview opens with this stop-everything line:

When Saigon fell in 1975, my family made a failed attempt to flee the country by sea.

FiveThirtyEight has a great, no-punches-held piece titled The Supreme Court is Allergic to Math:

But maybe this allergy to statistical evidence is really a smoke screen — a convenient way to make a decision based on ideology while couching it in terms of practicality.

Michael Pershan takes a generous but unflinching look at a sloppy (i.e., false) research claim in education:

What strikes me about YouCubed is that the errors just seem so unnecessary. The message is a familiar one, and I’m OK with a lot of it: don’t obsess over speed, think about mindset, don’t be afraid of mistakes. But there’s this sloppy science that gets duct taped on to the message. What purpose does that serve?

And saving the best for last, Jenna Laib (full disclosure: my sister) has a great essay about her trials as a first-year teacher:

I reworked my classroom supply routines to impede access to scissors, and allowed fear to root in me. I am sure the students could tell; ten-year-olds can smell fear like dogs.

7 thoughts on “Fake an Answer and Run Away

  1. So that was the secret behind your excellent ToK lectures, by not really knowing anything! Also how could put Ringo so far behind the other Beatles; it’s in his name – He’s a Starr! Keep up the brilliant blog posts,
    – Aydin

    1. Thanks, Aydin!

      I’m a big Ringo fan. Without him, I think the Beatles would be an impressive band, but maybe not a likable one (and anyway, without him, they wouldn’t really be the Beatles).

  2. George is responsible for too many canonical guitar riffs to count (Taxman, Here Comes the Sun, What is Life?, etc.) and is therefore the best Beatle.

    1. No question on the riffs – for a certain stretch there “What is Life” was my favorite song – but you start listing songs written by Paul or John and their CVs start looking pretty damn impressive.

  3. In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. The Question was later shown to be “what do you get when you multiply six by nine.” Which seems to say that the universe is inherently wrong. BUT, 6*9=42 is correct in base 13! Douglas Adams was on record as saying even he wasn’t geeky enough to make a joke in base 13, but still…

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