“Useless” Math Class – Misconception #2

In a previous post, I commented on how struck I was upon reading an embittered writer’s rant about having to take a “useless” math class. I mentioned four main misconceptions that we math teachers have allowed to take root in the modern academic mindset. I will now address misconception #2:

“The influx of handy-dandy computerized technology has lessened the need for mathematically proficient common folk.”

This misconception is offspring of the belief that mathematics is all about number-crunching in it’s various forms. If that were true, then there would probably be more truth to the misconception than there is. However, mathematics more than number-crunching. It is also analysis. Analysis needs human beings.

To properly analyze requires human beings because everywhere you look, human beings are trying to use quantitative statements to persuade other human beings. And data and statistics are not trustworthy on their own. In fact, they are included in Mark Twain’s three flavors of dishonesty: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

So, modern technology is wonderfully convenient for helping us deal with this:

photo credit: Flickr user "justgrimes" - used under creative commons

photo credit: Flickr user “justgrimes” – used under creative commons

But is your iPhone going to help you figure out if this chart tells us ANYTHING meaningful?

photo credit: Flickr user "jurvetson" - used under creative commons

photo credit: Flickr user “jurvetson” – used under creative commons

Can you imagine what kind of statement this display will help support?

You know where the general public can practice developing comfort with basic logic and numeracy to debunk crappy arguments that are pitched to us by politicians and marketing departments? You guessed it…

In “useless” math classes… like the ones I teach!


Also if you are curious about my debunking Misconception #1, you can go and read all about it

One thought on ““Useless” Math Class – Misconception #2

  1. I totally agree. I am probably as bad as gets with regards to math comprehension and I hated having to take statistics in college. But I have found that I can apply the concepts learned in that course to a myriad of other areas in daily life.

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