Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Math is simpler than I think?

I was just speaking to a math colleague (one who seems to understand math) and he told me that math is mostly a way of thinking about things which is primarily analytical and quantitative.

He told me that early on, with his daughter, he told her that whether she takes her medicine or not, she'll probably get over her cold. And from when she was tiny, he kept pushing her to talk and think about cause and effect.

Lets say that she got sick and then, she drank some chicken soup. The next day, she got better. Did we just learn that chicken soup makes people better? Well, many people have learned this lesson. Sadly, they're wrong.

The fact is that for a 100 people who get a cold, 10 get better the 2nd day, 30, get better the third day, 30 get better the 4th day, 20 get better the ffith day, and then five a day until they are all better. This pattern does not statistically change if you drink chicken soup. It just doesn't.

But, many people do drink chicken soup the day or the two days or the three days before they get better. And then they reach the conclusion, that since there is a correlation between the drinking of the soup and the ending of the cold, there must be some causality.

Statistically, there's not. My colleague says that this is the heart of math. Actually, he swears that statistics is everything. I liked it since it was the only part of math that ever made sense to me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

But I use math daily....

The fact is that while math was the bane of my educational experience, it also is a daily reality in professional life. How many of my daily tasks require math? Many of them.....Here's an example.

Marketing Analysis - I work for an online education company sometimes helping them with some web marketing stuff. AT the heart of it, there are the analytics which comes down to lots of simple math calculations. Its not the simple percentages that are the problem, it's that we routinely discuss the trends and whether the data sample is adequate to make a decision.

The point is that life, if nothing else, is ironic. If you have trouble with a subject in school, you can be sure that it will end up being critical to your career.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Radical Math, Anyone? Anyone?

To say that I dislike Math is a gross understatement… When I was in school, it was, by far, my worst subject. I dumped more time into studying math lessons than studying for all of my other subjects combined… and yet my grade was always lowest in that subject. I dreaded math. I hated math. I had NIGHTMARES about math. I spent half of my adolescent life grounded over math grades.

So, here I am – twenty five years later – pleading with my 4th grader to do her math homework, recognizing the same issues in her that I struggled with, way back then… and the only thing I can think of is that I have to help her… but I’m not exactly sure how.

I’m putting this out there because I’m looking for a radical approach to teaching math to her… and by radical, I mean unique, out of the box methods that will be un-intimidating and engaging… something that will alleviate some of her all-too-familiar math anxiety. HELP!