Candid Camera

Posted on June 24, 2013


I wish, I wish I could video the conversations as students try to figure out our new math course’s problems.   This is supposed to be a “mathematical literacy” course, with “real life” applications and…

… it is.   Now, I’ll grant that it’s not necessarily “real math” that people are *burning* with desire to know, but it really is practical applications.   I would also venture that one reason  people aren’t burning with desire to know these things because they’ve been afraid of math for so long that they can’t imagine having that kind of understanding in their mental toolbox.

To wit:  today folks are trying to figure out how much empty space there is in a tennis ball container.   So, they’re figuring out the volume of the whole container (pi are squeered, times h, which is of course six times the radius of the tennis ball ’cause there are three of them) and then the volume of each tennis ball and multiplying that by three… and subtracting the balls from the container.

Except that given the formula, many are asking “so do I add a negative or a positive?”   which, of course, would not be happening if they understood what they were doing.

Of course, the folks in the class before are still struggling mightily with “but why are there parentheses around 4 – (-30)?  I thought parentheses meant multiply?”

Posted in: math