13 August 2012

Do the math: Yes, algebra is necessary

About two weeks ago, some noodle-head at the New York Times, in an attempt to paint the paper as even more of a bastion of elite media detached from reality, asked "Is Algebra Necessary?"

Yes, it is, because you can't run an economically efficient household without knowing how to calculate prices by the ounce or the mile or the hour. The question isn't whether kids should be learning algebra in school. The question is whether they are learning how to apply algebra to real-life situations. Are they learning how to figure out which train, when the Acela leaves Boston at 10:22 and the Regional leaves D.C. at 10:45, arrives at Philadelphia first? Or are they learning how to figure out which is cheaper to bring to a Fourth of July picnic, a store-bought blueberry pie or a home-made one (answer)? Are they learning how to figure out how much money they'll need to budget for gas every week, if their commute to work is 12 miles each way, gas is $3.50/gal., the car gets 23 mpg, and they'll telecommute every Friday? If you hire movers at $120/hr., how much money will you save if you shave 90 minutes off their clock by de-clutterring to downsize the amount of belongings you move, stacking your boxes neatly before the movers arrive, and disassembling your bed? How many hours will you be able to pay them if they charge $90/hr. to pack your things beforehand, and your moving budget is $800.00?

No, I'm not moving. I like living in the city.

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