I received this in my inbox the other day and I must say, sad but true.

Last week I purchased a burger for $1.58. The counter girl took my $2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies, while looking at the screen on her register.

I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help.

While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.

Why do I tell you this?

Please read more about the “history of teaching math”

Teaching Math In 1950
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A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1960
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A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1970
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A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

Teaching Math In 1980
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A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math In 1990
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By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees. (There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math In 2005
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El hachero vende un camion carga por $100. La cuesta de productiones…………

And we wonder why jobs requiring intelligence are being outsourced??

2 Responses to “Teaching Math”

  1. Ian Bicking Says:

    People *way* overestimate the success of past education, mostly because of increased expectations. “Literate” today is a much higher standard than it was 50 years ago. The same is true of math.

    In part there has been a change, where the best educated of today are going much further much more quickly than 50 years ago. 80 years ago geometry was a freshman college level course, now it’s a sophmore highschool level course. In the process, we may have left some people behind, and created an education system that favors (optimistically!) the priviledged while letting the underpriviledged fail to a greater degree. But honestly, that girl wouldn’t have been put in front of a cash register 50 years ago, and she probably wouldn’t have been any better at math.

  2. Chad Says:

    On the flip side… I’m guessing that 80 years ago the basic long division and/or multiplication was practiced and known by a far greater percentage of those who were lucky enough to get into that geometry course. I’m not so confident that the same percentage today would be able to handle some of the basics without their TI86 in their hand.

    No doubt I agree we have some amazing advancements going on these days, but it’s all relative.