Once in a while, something like this catches my eye.
Once in a great while, references to Pi abound. That’s when it’s fun to be a teacher, and especially fun to teach sixth grade math. You see, readers, I was lucky enough to hold virtual class on March 14, 2012. 3-14, of course, is Pi Day. Get it? 3.14 is the fourteenth day of the third month. Got it now? 3.14 is the number commonly used to represent the proportion we know as Pi. Twenty-two sevenths? Later, class. Later.
Okay, we’ll go on. The same day I saw the above image on Facebook, Jeopardy had an entire category devoted to Pi. I impressed myself by sweeping the category – that is, for you non-Trebekies, I knew all five answers in the column. Impressive, I thought. No comment from the peanut gallery, brother. Shh.
Later that night, I saw yet another math reference on Facebook. My cousin is enrolled in classes on her way to a career change, and she dreads her math classes. As she puts it, “I care more about the prime directive than prime numbers.” At least she’s straightforward with her attitude. Give my Trekkie cousin credit for knowing her mission.
But seriously, folks, knowing a little math is handy. Adding and subtracting decimals – keeping the checkbook balanced. Ratio and Unit Rate – which size package is the best deal? Basic percents – figuring out sales tax or a discount. Calculating a decent tip for the waitstaff? Use your knowledge of percent again. Look at the bill, move the decimal point to find 10%. Find half of that amount (5%, naturally) and add it to the first number (the 10%, remember?) Now you know how much to leave for a 15% tip. If you can’t do the math, trust me, the server can. You will risk under-tipping, which leads to potentially insulting the server, in which case you can never go to that place again. You might risk over-tipping, which raises expectations or makes you look like you’re math incompetent. Really, people, Math matters.
In addition to the above cartoon, I’ve had a lot of fun with the Sunday Comics pages. When a math geek character makes reference to the Fibonacci sequence, I can rattle off “0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8,” and so on until the punch line makes sense. Look it up, friends. Really. It’s worth knowing.
And when my friends and family are really struggling to figure out the discount or the tax or the tip, I’m reassuring them in a thoroughly verbal linguistic manner.
All great fun. We simplify the tipping calculation by nearly always tipping 20% when we eat in a restaurant. Being a server is a hard way to make a living!
Back in the day, I took calculus, though to be honest, I barely passed. In recent years, the “math” part of my brain has been sorely underutilized. It’s like a limp, atrophied old muscle. Horrible! And yet, there are computers and calculators everywhere.
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