Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why My Math Teachers Were Evil

Or more precisely "Why I Hate Arithmetic But Love Math."

I was required at a young and impressionable age to do something it took me years to overcome. I didn't even understand it then, I only knew that it felt wrong. Even after I could prove that it was "incorrect", I still had trouble grasping why it was "wrong".

I was required (like my classmates) to commit to memory that the ratio 22/7 is equal to pi (3.14159265358...). It isn't, of course. (It's 3.142857143 exactly if you are wondering.) It didn't take long to recognize that the numbers didn't match, i.e. that the ratio was incorrect. It took years to understand that 22/7 could never be correct, nor could 45/14, nor 91/28, etc. pi is an irrational number. Transcendental to be precise. By definition it could never be expressed as a "ratio" of rational numbers.

I was hampered for years by this seemingly innocuous misunderstanding. I can't just "memorize it for the test," my mind doesn't work that way. And I'm not special, there are plenty of others who suffered the same type of obstruction.

Math as a school subject is very poorly taught and understood. It is a waste and defrauding of students to fail to teach them so badly.

2 comments:

anky said...

I have to share some ideas of mine about pi like that value of pi help to push improvement of computers.Japan's T2K Supercomputer, which calculated the value to 2.6 trillion digits in about 73 hours and 36 minutes.
Is Negative Number a Rational Number

Jonas Bull said...

Not sure how this relates, but ok :-)