TikTok Math Girl

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After math is racist comes this … “I don’t think math is real.” … “who came up with this concept?” … “Pythagoras…like he didn’t even have plumbing.”

This wisdom comes from TikTok math girl:

There’s a part of me that thinks that TikTok math girl is joking. She’s just having some fun.

There’s a part of me that wonders how anybody can use an iPhone to record herself and then share the recording with the entire world and not appreciate how tremendously better life is because of the advance of math, science and technology.

There’s a part of me that says, sorry, you’re a minor. Your opinions about math don’t matter. You need to rely on your parents or guardians who tell you, for your own good, that you need to learn math.

Then there’s another part of me. A part that wonders why we are even trying to teach girls (and boys) who are happy to be ignorant and don’t want to learn. They shouldn’t be in a high school preparing its students for college. They should be in a vocational high school, learning a trade in order to become a productive citizen upon leaving school.

As it is, schools are watering down math courses. The formerly standard course in algebra is being replaced by courses in applied arithmetic; i.e. See the following example from a district in Colorado:

“Applied Math is a one-year high school math course preparing students for mathematical situations that will be encountered in life and in the workplace.”

Who, after all, has to solve for x in the real world? Okay, maybe a contractor has to know how many tiles to order to refloor a kitchen. But, really, we have plumbing today … I mean the iPhone. Just ask Siri how many tiles.

Then there is filling out your income tax form. Let’s see, enter the larger of lines 14, 32 and 47, subtract the lesser of line 37 and $10,000, set this equal to a, then set line 10 equal to b, and solve for c2 =  a2 + b2 .

Not really. For income taxes, you go to a tax preparer who puts all of your numbers into a computer and then presses a button.

So, with computers, who needs to know math?

At one level, programmers need to know math.

At another level, almost everybody should know enough math to appreciate what gadgets do. Sort of like car drivers should have some idea of what’s going on under the hood, even though they aren’t mechanics and shouldn’t mess with anything, not even attempt to change the oil. There was a time I changed the oil. But, the darn thing’s got too complicated.

Now we come to a little understood reason to know math: to be able to form professional judgment.

Once you step out of the laboratory and are confronted with the infinite complexity of the real world, people in positions of responsibility need to be able to form professional judgments. Managers of business enterprises need professional judgment to hire and to fire, to plan, direct and coordinate and do all the other things that managers do. Ideally, this means having a sound foundation in the disciplines underlying management, years of experience, and intimate knowledge of the concrete facts of time and place with which he or she is dealing.

The same thing is true for medical professionals, especially family physicians and other gatekeepers to the system. The same thing is true for clinical psychologists; they need professional judgment. Ditto economists advising banks, business enterprises and associations, and governments. But maybe not so much academic economists. And, I could say much the same thing about city planners, lawyers, detectives, and military officers. These high-level professionals need a good foundation in the liberal arts, to include math and science.

Preparation for high-level professions should involve ascension from middle school to an academic high school. And those high schools should teach algebra, not applied math. But, those interested in cosmetology school, a lower-level profession, don’t need algebra, at least not as much.

Actually, I suspect cosmetology school will teach some algebra in conjunction with familiarizing aspiring beauticians with, e.g., the chemical mix involved in hair coloring. I suspect that someone who can’t demonstrate a basic understanding of algebra at cosmetology school risks becoming, as Frankie Avalon put it, a beauty school drop-out: 

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