Date: Apr 19, 2017 3:09 PM
Author: kirby urner
Subject: Business Math?
I'm thinking back to the days long ago when people
considered high school and a high school education
a suitable training ground for developing skills for
the workplace. College might be an option for some,
sure, but that could be later, after a job or three, as
one might need to save up some money. College ain't
free unless you live in a socialist country, right?
Those days are pretty much gone now, and yet we
have the same Chamber of Commerce type business
community hungry for people who don't expect big
salaries yet reliably punch in and do whatever tasks.
They're flooded with resumes from college grads
nowadays, but even so, are the skills they're looking
for really there?
What I'm noticing is the emergence of a new educational
institution that is positioning itself as a "between jobs"
training facility that provides training and job-readiness
to high school grads who may not have a lot of college,
maybe a course here and there.
These are the "code schools" and they're a lot like
community college, including in providing on-line courses.
They also provide "boot camps", more intensive in-person
meetups wherein students work together for hours a day,
on top of homework.
My question (lets finally get to a question): will the high
schools themselves be absorbing more of this code
school curriculum? If so, will this be a process of
augmentation (e.g. more after school programs) i.e.
supplementation, or will some of the core disciplines
(in particular mathematics) change their shape to some
I think the pat answer to my question is: maths will
not change. We have a fixed K-12 road map, with
Algebra forking into pre-calc/calc, with either AP
or IB as attractive options for those considered
either gifted or college-bound. Anything to do with
"coding" is called "computer science" (CS) and the
most CS courses might expect is to count towards
the required number of math credits for a high school
diploma. I believe the NCTM has given a tentative
green light to this compromise.
A different solution practically no one talks about
is to resurrect "philosophy" as a subject appropriate
to K-12ers in some form. Back in trivium-quadrivium
days, Philosophy was high ranking, looked up to
much like STEM is today.
Philosophy has a tradition of incorporating symbolic
logic and concerning itself with the foundations of
mathematics. It also has a reputation for maybe
considering the more impractical and/or entertaining
conjectures "outside the box" by the standards of
any particular orthodoxy. We learn to think critically,
not as a side effect of learning something else, but
as a directly-talked-about activity.
Speech and debate skills are encouraged. We
bring in rhetoric and the oratory skills needed to
win an argument.
In today's high schools, what comes closest to
philosophy might indeed be the speech and debate
club, extracurricular, and considered an athletic
activity, another sport. Teams practice and participate
in intramural competitions. Trophies are awarded,
scores kept, with the highest scoring teams going
to more regional and even national events, much
like in one of the many "ball sports" (soccer,
football, basketball, baseball, volleyball).
We may also see coding tournaments in some
regions, because programming is also treated as
a competitive sport in some districts. I mention
What I've called Martian Math over the years,
here on math-teach, is somewhat closer to philo-
sophy than usual in that we look at distopian
versus more utopian visions of the future and
contemplate what "steering" mechanisms take
us towards one vision over another.
The Martians (ETs of any description) come in
as a wild card, which a teacher is free to make
use of or dispense with. In the pilots I've done
around Portland, we talk about 'War of the Worlds'
as an example of distopian science fiction, and
go over the sociological phenomenon of mass
panic (in some circles) when Orson Welles used
a "radio voice" (associated with authority) to
read from it over the air.
What killed those invading Martians in the end
was not human prowess with weaponry (we were
clearly outmatched) but the biological defenses of
the planet itself: the aliens succumbed to diseases,
to viruses, for which they had no antibodies.
The virus itself is then our doorway into a biological
world replete with Platonic forms, i.e. polyhedrons,
the viral sheath having many of the characteristics
of an icosahedron in some cases. That's our bridge
into spatial geometry, and the story continues, with
the Martians, now friendly, cooperative, having a
novel way of thinking about volume. Earthlings and
Martians build a dam together. That becomes
another story, more utopian, and involving detailed
computations, logic, foundations of mathematics.
If you're in high school and think Martian Math
might be of interest, as a philosophy course, here's
an entry point to some Youtubes on the subject, as
well as a link to the Reed College pilot, wherein
I worked with Saturday Academy on a flagship
implementation of said course:
Also, in the footnotes, a link to more writings on
the emerging code school phenomenon.
Have we wandered far afield from Business Math
as a vocational subject? I would argue not, as if you
check the Martian Math materials you'll find plenty of
coding is involved, moving from MIT Scratch, to Codesters,
HTML + CSS become involved, and SVG. Before you
know it, you've got that first job out of high school, and
an opportunity to start saving for college.