This conversation is closed.

## What does the average citizen need maths for?

I had a conventional education. In school and later at other educational institutions I was always just mediocre - but I became excellent at this - and as the years went buy I asked myself why the educational systems around the world seem to be promoting the same subjects.

WHY?

## Closing Statement from Michael Froemmcke

I can understand that people, especially those who spent long years learning maths, are very passionate about the subject. Yet I am still not convinced that the actual outcome justifies the effort and, in some cases, pain associated with this subject. There seems to be widespread reluctance to even contemplate any alternatives, which reinforces my suspicion that most people are indoctrinated in believing that there is no good education without maths. I think the understanding of certain principles is far more important than an intricate knowledge of mathematics.... But this is just my opinion. Thanks to all the participants in this minor debate.

## Lejan .

## prakhar porwal

mathematics, statistics and computer science at

the University of Illinois at Chicago, writes in the

Washington Post that although a lot of effort and

money has been spent to make mathematics

seem essential, unlike literature, history, politics and music, math has little relevance to

everybody's daily life. 'All the mathematics one needs in real life can be learned in early years

without much fuss,' writes Ramanathan. 'Most

adults have no contact with math at work, nor do

they curl up with an algebra book for relaxation.'

Ramanathan says that the marketing of math has

become similar to the marketing of creams to whiten teeth, gels to grow hair and regimens to

build a beautiful body, but even with generous

government grants over the past 25 years,

countless courses, conferences, and books

written on how to teach teachers to teach, where

is the evidence that these efforts have helped students? A 2008 review by the Education

Department found that the nation is at 'greater

risk now' than it was in 1983, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress math scores

for 17-year-olds have remained stagnant since

the 1980s (PDF). Meanwhile those who do love math and science have been doing very well and

our graduate schools are the best in the world. 'As

for the rest, there is no obligation to love math

any more than grammar, composition, curfew or

washing up after dinner. Why create a need to

make it palatable to all and spend taxpayers' money on pointless endeavors without

demonstrable results or accountability?'"

## James Clifton

In my eyes, I am an average citizen.

## Maija Grudule

Sometimes I hear that kids are allowed to use calculators in class, even scientific ones that process complicated equations. At that moment I guess any slight advanced math gets useless for the average citizen.

## Maaher Sayeed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRD4gb0p5RM

## Barry Palmer

First, to learn how the universe works.

Second, to understand how others understand how the universe works.

Math is a powerful tool. If you do not know math, you not only deprive yourself of a tool, but you will not understand how others are gaining advantage by using it. When you understand statistics others cannot use statistics to fool you.

## Michael Froemmcke

## Barry Palmer

## Fritzie -

One more thing also. Those trying to sell products or points of view often take advantage of people's innumeracy and insecurity about math or science to mislead them. They know that most people "check out" once mathematics is used in argument (or once someone says something about (supposed) recent findings in neuroscience or quantum physics).

The default for people without the background to understand what is being presented tends to go in one of two ways that I have noticed. One is just to assume that anyone who talks about math (or neuroscience or quantum physics) is probably smart or at least knows what he is talking about. Maybe he knows, but maybe he actually doesn't, but without any background you can't tell.

The other default is the anti-intellectual one of assuming that those who are experts in these areas must be frauds (the reasons vary for why this must be so).

If you know enough math actually to review arguments critically that involve math or enough science to review arguments critically that involve that, you won't be tempted to adopt one of these default views.

## Michael Froemmcke

## Fritzie -

It depends what you want to be able to understand.

There would be good argument for a couple of years of algebra because real flexibility with the understanding of variables, parameters, and models is valuable in many settings and applications. Geometry is usually the easiest way to introduce the idea of deductive proof, which forever changes a students' thinking about whether a conclusion has actually been tightly defended. It can be done with number theory also, but geometry has its own additional value in understanding spatial problems.

There is a lot of science one cannot understand without the concepts of calculus, though the calculations would not be as vital.

John Allen Paulos, author of A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, argues that inferential statistics is the most important part of literacy- that is, not the calculation of means and correlation but rather understanding what conclusions can be drawn legitimately from a sample or study design and what the threats are to what are called "internal validity," "external validity," and "construct validity." These are mostly logical issues and assessments that give a person who masters them lots of leverage.

## C B

It's a mathmatic concept even before math was formalized as a science. Math describes how things are, doesn't create them.

Average was a math concept before math, english or any language had a word for it ;). English just happened to pick average.

## Krisztián Pintér

## Lejan .

## Robert Vigerious

## Krisztián Pintér

## Michael Froemmcke

## Gordon Barker

In reality, just a few percent of us need to know calculus, but everybody needs to know statistics.

Without an understanding of statistics and basic math you can be decieved about everything from how much you are being ripped off by interest rates on your mortgage to organizations that are lying about the significance of a change in the occurrance of something to suit their own agenda.

In this world, without basic math and particularly statistics you are the mercy of every con artist and shyster with something to sell

## Michael Froemmcke

## Geraldene Beirne

A modern example would be trying to compare deals between different telco/ electricity providers. Nearly impossible, and I have university level maths education.

The other benificial aspect is the way it teaches you to think. It is teaching you how to compare numerically. How could I work out whether the S2.50 jar of 500g pasta sauce is better value than the S3 750g jar.

I use maths everyday.

## Comment deleted

## Krisztián Pintér

if one wants to be witty, wit is required.

## C B

You are referring to arithmetic mean.

Average is a typical value or central tendency in a set.

Many other ways to found an average.

"Many different descriptive statistics can be chosen as a measure of the central tendency of the data items. These include the arithmetic mean, the median, and the mode. Other statistics, such as the standard deviation and the range, are called measures of spread and describe how spread out the data is." - Wikipedia, of course.

So the average citizen would be a citizen who represents the typical or the central tendency in the set of all citizens. He might not even exist in a physical form!

Math isn't really about numbers.

Don't mistake all math for arithmetic.

## Krisztián Pintér

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/average

av·er·age (vr-j, vrj)

adj.

1. (Mathematics) Of, relating to, or constituting an average.

2. Being intermediate between extremes, as on a scale: a player of average ability.

3. Usual or ordinary in kind or character: a poll of average people; average eyesight.

4. Assessed in accordance with the law of averages.

## C B

It's a mathmatic concept even before math was formalized as a science. Math describes how things are, doesn't create them.

Average was a math concept before math, english or any language had a word for it ;). English just happened to pick average.

## Krisztián Pintér

## C B

Mind you, I also find quantum physics terribly exciting and eagerly await to see where Schrodinger's cat will take us next!

I just wouldn't simply fail someone for grounding arguments in a school of thought that gave us so much.

## natasha nikulina

To 'non locality' and it's the end of the very notion ' next'

Welcome ! :)

## C B

## Ashish kumar singh

## Michael Froemmcke

## Gwang-Hee Choi

Or more. Maybe the same reason like art or music.

## Dan Clarke

A 2 for 1 offer is only half the saving it seems - maths

This account offers you 2% aer before tax - maths

This credit card will charge you x interest on x - maths

How long will it take to get to edimburgh by car as aposed to train?

Is this deal really a deal and am I getting good value for money?

Can we realistcly afford a child?

How are other people able to work out these magic things and I can't?

Why do we call the 1600's the 17th century?

-DC

## Valentin Poussou

So the problem is not that it's useless it's more in the way it's teached and how some children feel bad about themselves because they do not succeed in math (and therefore in the conventional educational system which is largely based on math -in France at least-). And those children are not "bad" at math they just have trouble learning it this way. I am one of those children and I feel a bit sad that I dropped out of math class when I was offered to because I felt It could bring me something. But I just couldn't learn it that way.

So yes there is a problem with the place that is accorded to math in our system because it lures some children into thinking they are "bad" and won't do well later on anyways. (I always remember the joke about a math teacher giving macdonald's emplyment forms to the students which failed the test.)

So I think math Is definitely a good thing to teach but that other ways of succeeding should be given more importance.

And as always watch more Ken Robinson to have faith in a change of our educational system.

## Don Rogers

I had the wonderful opportunity to home-school my son beginning at age 13. As established curriculums were weeded out, adding to history, literature, creative writing, positive interactive approaches, piano, search and rescue, rappelling, martial arts, just a wide variety... I was teaching him trig and medical anatomy when he was 14. He and I were at a retired teacher's home where I was working, and she curiously checked out his assignment. She loudly exclaimed, "THAT'S TRIGONOMETRY!! THAT GAVE ME SUCH A HARD TIME IN COLLEGE!" My son looked at me with complete despair in his eyes and spoke "Daddy!?" with a slight question in his voice. I said, "Don't worry Jake. Sine, cosine and tangent are merely words of a different language. Each word has a specific meaning. Once you understand what each word means, it will be simple... and I have more patience to teach you this, than you have fears that you won't learn it. Relax son", and I gave him a kiss on the brow as I embraced his head.

Grateful resolve settled back into his gaze and he refocused on the assignment I had given him.

He hasn't used trig once in 17 years... but he knows that he can. He has no fears of learning anything... and THAT is a huge benefit in life. As well as learning, that lack of fear, nurtures honesty, objectivity and creativity. He is completely as ease in the company of men and women whose accomplishments eclipse his own, and he readily teaches with attuned patience and humility, those who know less than he does.

## Robert Vigerious

..I am an average citizen, since until when I was showed what can possibly be done with (advanced) math I didn't even think that something like that could be possible. After long training I can use these instruments well and understand them, and I've got all the opportunities of an average citizen to build upon my skills.. ..not only in my job, in my daily life too.. and how many hobbies today do not involve math, when hi-tech and knowledge are so pervasive and high-level? how else would you defend yourself from fraud people, just by being constantly suspicious?

Imho, real non-average citizens can figure out their way even without being taught how to, that's how they managed to discover properties and prove theorems in the past, at least.

Is it abstract? Yes.

Is it difficult to create? Yes.

Is it difficult to imitate/understand? No: Consciousness is Abstraction! Things become difficult only when you've become lazy enough to stop this abstraction process for a while, loosing the consciousness of the meaning underneath.

To me how is taught today is good enough.

## Michael Froemmcke

## Michael Froemmcke

## Lorelei Coffin

The way math is written now, it's not important how concepts are analogous to real phenomena. We don't practice drawing those analogies. So naturally no one cares and no one really benefits. But math is "the discipline which compares the most diverse phenomena and finds the secret analogies that unite them" - Descartes. And it's powerful. So let's use it!

## Elizabeth Gu

I often feel like being blind.

I just want to learn more about it. It may open my eyes to see the bigger world through deeper understanding.

That's all.

## Salim Solaiman

## george lockwood

## Gail .

Ken Robinson's talk about school killing creativity is not about dropping math. Hardly! More about making it more relevant and therefore interesting, so that curiosity is inspired and the student as well as all of humanity benefits

Had I had ME as a teacher back when I was learning that boring geometry in school, I would have aced it, and might have gone on to be a physicist. Math is actually quite fun when you do it out of school. I do wish that it had been fun IN school.

## Michael Froemmcke

## Gail .

I think that it is very sad that generations are graduating from various schools not even knowing how uninformed they are. And because they have been told that they are now "educated", they don't know that they are now "ready" to begin educating themselves.

This applies even for those with a PhD. Their knowledge is so specialized that it excludes a LOT of relevant information that is considered part of another field. SAD