Multiplication by Subtraction

No one in our family is a math whiz – we’re all literature folk with one black-sheep biologist mixed in. Quite frankly, I think the average student is taught way too much mathematics in school. If you don’t plan on becoming an engineer, physicist, or statistician, do you really need to have advanced calculus or trigonometry? I’m sure most would disagree, but I wonder if we aren’t taught too much high level math and not enough basic life skills. How did my girls graduate high school with honors yet have never been taught how to balance a checkbook, write a resume, or fill out basic government paperwork?

mathematics-1509559_1280I’m not saying I can’t do math. I can function on a very basic level and I helped the kids with homework until they got to about the eighth grade. That’s where I went rusty and chewed pencils down to nubs before blaming teachers for their new math and its crazy calculation methods. Give me Markmatics, which is a math theorem based on very rudimentary understanding, a calculator, and Google.

Read More

Math for Boys – Virgil’s Theory of Relative Trouble

There’s lotsa things about school I don’t get.  I know I’ll never catch on to grammar.  There are way too many excepts in the “i before e” rule to keep up.  Whoever thought up English oughta be dragged out to a field somewhere and beat with a mackerel.  Ms. Singer will never give me plus marks for my handwriting.  She puts “be neater” in big red letters at the top of everything I hand in.  That makes me mad.  Teachers shouldn’t grade angry.  One time, she must have been grading real angry because she tore the page and her red ink looked like it said, “be nexter”.  So I walked it back up to her desk and asked her what “nexter” was.  She just let out a big sigh, threw up her hands, and stomped out of the classroom.  I don’t know where she went, but she was a lot calmer when she came back.   She stomps out a lot when I ask her stuff.

I might not understand grammar, but I get math.  I don’t know why, numbers just make sense to me.  Math can be useful to a boy, especially one like me who finds himself in trouble all the time.  I’ve come up with what I call my Theory of Relative Trouble and it all has to do with estimation.  Here’s how it goes: A boy’s reaction to trouble is directly proportionate to its estimated potential.  My brother Webster helped me come up with the big words, but the theory is all mine!

Example: You knock down a stack of apples at Gentry’s store, do you:

A)  Apologize and help him clean it up?

B)  Run out of the store and down the street?

C)  Knock over a display of walnuts to cause a diversion?

I can promise that A is not the answer.  Only my pal Henry would help him out and he’s got more manners than any boy I know.  He is what you call an exception, so A is out for the rest of us.  If you chose C, I like your style, but it’s really an overreaction when you go back to my theory of estimation.  You have to consider the trouble.  The correct answer is B, run, and I’ll tell ya why.  First of all, nobody really likes old Gentry, so they won’t go in to help him catch you when you run.  Second, he’s big in the belly and I’ve seen him breath heavy just from sweeping his stoop.  So he can’t chase you and if he does, it won’t be for long.  Third, if by some stroke of back luck, someone like Sheriff Whitaker happened to be outside and grabbed you by the collar, the sum of trouble wouldn’t be great.  You’d just have to clean up the apples (and walnuts if you tried that angle, heh-heh.)

So, the equation goes something like this: R ά pT, or reaction is proportionate to the potential trouble.  In order to use this equation properly, you have to plan your trouble well in advance and we all know that boys don’t plan much of anything – things just happen.  So we always have to have a back-up plan in our pocket.  I like to call my plan tearing out (AKA:  running like your backsides on fire.)  I’ll cover that the next time they let me type on this thing…if they can catch me.