Tuesday, October 14

I was told there would be no math

Among most of my recent blogpost, there is a large concentration that has to do with politics. This is not because i think they are more interesting or important than other forms of foolishness, It just means there are a higher concentration of them in the news right now, and i come across them very often. And i could essentially write about them indefinitely, but instead today i will address the simple lack of math in today's society/football in particular. Why do we live in a society where it is normal/acceptable to deride math as unnecessary and stupid. This is i believe one of the greatest evils in our educational system. It is a well known complaint/joke about math about how that calculus really came in handy the last time i was in the grocery store. Really? you don't use that much calculus in your day to day life? as opposed to what? the chemistry you use? the English literature? the art? The history? Yeah i was trying to buy the peach at the grocery store, but the clerk refused to sell it to me until i could answer him a question of but ancient greece. Thank god i took those classes in high school. I admittedly have always liked math, but i think many people dislike math because they think it is supposed to be hard, and as a result never really try, and/or out think themselves by convincing themselves that the problems are hard and complicated when in reality they are simple and easy.

This complaint has come up most recently because of stupid football announcers. The first incident came up a month or more ago, i don't remember exactly, but something along the lines of the score was 3-10 and the losing team had the chance to go for it at the goal line, or just kick the field goal for 3 points, and the announcer insisted the team had to kcik the fieldgoal because then they would be just a field goal away from taking the lead. because in his mind 3 plus 3 plus 3 is more than 10. The person announcing the game with him, clearly picked up on the error, but refused to say anything, probably embarrassed by the extreme ignorance displayed by his fellow announcer. I think in a case like this we all need to be embarrassed for america. I could be wrong, but i don't think this kind of disdain for math is tolerated around the world, in particular in asian countries, and it's no surprise their students are easily out beating out our students in mathematical endeavors.

The second incident occurred today, and is less an error of arithmetic and more an error in strategy. After a touchdown you can kick the extra point, or go for 2 points. First it is important to know that statistically you should always go for 2 because it succeeds more than 50% of the time. But i can understand why teams wouldn't do that. In this instance the team was up by 19 with like 7 minutes left in the game. So they can kick for 1 to go up by 20, or go for 2 to go up by 21. The announcer insists they should go for 1 because there's too much time left in the game. The only reason you would go for 1 is if you think the other team will score 20 points or 19. If they score less than 19 it doesn't matter, if they score 21 you should go for 2, if they score more than 21 then once again it depends on if you score again. Now they can either score 21 with 3 touchdowns, or 20 with 2 touchdowns and 2 fieldgoals. With 7 minutes left in the game, there is very little chance the other team will have the ball 3 more times to be able to score those three touchdowns, but there is virtually no chance they will have the ball 4 times and score 2 touchdowns and 2 field goals. Clearly the best play is to go for 2 to try to go up by 21 for a tie in case something terrible happens and the other team scores 3 times. And yet the announcer without ever bothering to think about the math involved says you need to go for 1 because there's so much time left in the game. (Side note, very few if any headcoaches actually bother to think about the math involved either, they have some sort of chart to tell them when to go for 2 and when to go for 1.)

Maybe this just pushed one of my buttons and i went off a little. I don't really agree with the lazarus long quote that "anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe and not make messes in the house." But couldn't we have a little more respect for Mathematics.


Blogger Aras said...

You may be great at math but your lingual skills are up for debate: "no surprise their students are easily out beating out our students." Out beating? Do you mean that they're beating our students even more than our students are beating themselves?!

I think there's something to that Long quote. I think in one of those books each voting booth was equipped with a basic math quiz about a quadratic equation: if you didn't answer the question correctly your vote wasn't counted. I like that idea too. Just as long as it's not a spelling test.

2:42 AM  
Blogger Trashcan said...

I'm not sure if he ever had it in a book, but i know heinlein proposed the idea. Also to avoid wasting time he proposed that you would have to put up some amount of money, if you answered correctly you would get your money back and your vote would count, if not you lose. But to some extend that favors the rich to whom it doesn't matter if they lose the money, so they can risk it, so his final suggestion was that you have to put up your life. That way everyone wagers the same. Although i would argue that it certainly favors the elderly who don't have as much life left, and the miserable whose low quality of life make their risk smaller. In any case, they used to have literacy tests, but it was in a system designed to keep blacks out, so now a new test system could never be created because it would be immediately denounced as being racist. Very few of the founding fathers really preferred the idea of democracy with no restrictions on voting rights, but that's kind of where we landed.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Aras said...

Maybe domestic terrorists will save the day?

2:27 AM  

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