The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Education » math-teach

Topic: Supermarket Mathematics
Replies: 5   Last Post: Sep 11, 2006 1:04 AM

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List Jump to Tree View Jump to Tree View   Messages: [ Previous | Next ]
Kirby Urner

Posts: 4,713
Registered: 12/6/04
Supermarket Mathematics
Posted: Sep 9, 2006 4:20 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply

So I mused aloud at the supermarket checkout stand yesterday, whether the clerk had ever swiped *just this combo* of laser beam readable UPC coded products before.

Given the goat's milk, plus other sundries, I'm guessing not. The permutation space is huge, and making "order of subset" not matter (combos, smaller space), still leaves us with a huge selection. Fred Meyer's is serious about being a grocer, plus an "everything" store (not quite on the scale of Wal*Mart though).

Of course as gnu math teachers know, "supermarket math" is embedded in a larger ToonTown for us, as a bridge between energy from solar fusion (the sun) and energy as edible biomass here on earth (our food). We're solar powered animals in many dimensions (quantifiable dimensions), and gnu math doesn't avoid mention of our energy context (unlike dino math, still taught by many tall people)).

We also stack oranges, other round fruit, in the appropriate section of the store, there to segue into a whole library of toons about sphere packings and their lattices. You don't have to learn a lot of cryptic algebra for this, just watch your flatscreen and bliss out. Crypto comes later (after you already know Python).

We already have lots of toons in the can, but the trick is to find good branding venues. Do we want DVD sets to materialize in Hollywood Video, already cram packed with made-for-geeks goodies? Sure, why not. Read only TV is just fine. No one said gnu math had to be 100% runnable, as in "download and risk my computer's integrity." Fahgeddaboutit. Just watch the tube and be amused. The downloadbles come later, through schools with staff paid to keep the viruses out, to maintain reasonably high standards of infrastructure hygiene.

And this is where I *will* offer a pro Linux opinion. Getting kids acculturated to having sysop responsibilities, including permissions control down to a granular level, a sense of groups, world, and the need to valve access, is an extremely healthy development in most cases. It puts kids in a driver's seat, with business to attend to, not to the *exclusion* of fun and games, but in addition and also.

To put it in geek terms: I don't believe in hand-holding to an extent that can't be promised in later life, i.e. expecting too many creature comforts in every circumstance is not going to get you to many parties -- too princess and the pea, too prima donna. Linux is good because it *does* rub our noses in it. We're not "above" worrying about low level maintenance, expecting a cast of servants to compensate for our willful lack of curiousity. That being said, we all know that we all have huge gaps in our skillsets. I'm no jack of all jacks of all trades. I have very definite limitations. That's OK for a gnu math teacher to admit. No "infinite and all knowing" really flies around here. We each just aim to do a good job, within the realm of our real and often limited abilities.

Anyway, getting back to supermarkets, it's really not important that UPC ids "rank" everything in terms of "most to least My Favorite". I mean, what a huge waste of effort, right, to decide for each customer, if goat's milk is "better" or "worse" than anchioves or avocados. What dreary work! So fortunately for we the people, UPCs care nada por what we each think about > and <. There's no ranking. Just taxonomy, cardinality, labeling, keeping things differentiated. Cardinality before Ordinality. Pairing (of names with objects) before Ranking.

As Paul and I were discussing, back when Google changed the way it ranked ops in its search box calculator, you can have Group Theoretic structure with just Cardinality, and a sense of a Zero or Neutral. CAIN, and maybe Abelian, to be a Group (yes, a Biblical allusion -- not my invention, came prewoven). Then later you can polarize your field into a more strongly ordered set, with definite positive and negative (group members have inverses, but you needn't posit a whole country for them). You get an "in group" and an "out group" for example -- school kids relate to that (cliques -- often lots). The all-positives huddle in their +++ 1/8th of the XYZ, whereas everywhere else it's mixed with some negative. Now in Quadrays it's different: four + quadrants balanced by four - quadrants in an inside out space (more like in everyday topology).

So as you know, we take the XYZ and strengthen it, by adding all those tetrahedra (picture pouring cement if you like, but this is really about the rebar). We now have a Coupler sitting at (0,0,0), an interface between alternate lattices of space-filling rhombic dodecahedra (Russell Chu identified four: (1) octahedron centric (2) ball centric (3) positive tet centric (4) negative tet centric


Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2017. All Rights Reserved.