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Topic: Enticements (was Supermarket Math)
Replies: 5   Last Post: Feb 17, 2008 4:10 PM

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Kirby Urner

Posts: 4,713
Registered: 12/6/04
Enticements (was Supermarket Math)
Posted: Feb 14, 2008 10:45 PM
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I think every successful classroom regime to which
I've been a witness, including my own (I was a
math teacher too once, in the clock punching sense)
included "enticements".

By "enticements" I mean some break in the routine
in order to sample what is to come, to partake of
the promise. We stay within the knowledge domain,
but we break free from the textbook.

Now I can hear some in the MC crowd jumping up and
down. Given their low opinion of teachers, or home-
schooling parents, they think any break away from
Saxon or Singapore could only be into time-wasting

But hey, some teachers have lots of real world
experience, of math being applied. So maybe *that*
is the subject of conversation: supermarket math.

Like today is Valentine's Day, with that same greasy
feel of all commercialized emotion -- mass production
meets intimate relationships. Feels like The Borg
(Star Trek allusion). So in that spirit, I offer
this little math cartoon from 1946: Easy Does It.**

Give your students a break from dreary slogging,
and take a look at how grocery stores work. There's
this thing called the bottom line, cash register
income minus expenses, including loans to this
bank, where evil Mr. Squeeze is going to demand
your first born, unless you want to be penniless
(which is where Easy comes in -- but I won't spoil
it for ya).

Then there's margin per can, which could make all
the difference to your bottom line (and your daughter's)
- -- but only if you get that *volume* is what counts,
not a greed-bearing fat markup. Let a quality brand
work *for* you, accept the lower rate of return per
item, yet beef up on per annum revenues that take
you over the top.

Or if you don't want Supermarket Math, read Flatland
by Abbott, and do some literary criticism. Like in
my curriculum, we sort of ridicule it, for all the
superstitious science fiction that grew up around the
so-called "hyperdimensional" meme. A whole generation
of pulp fiction and comic books depended on that one.
Yet so few people have any clue what it means -- think
you need freaky Johnny Neutron abilities to use the
jargon, the shoptalk, whereas for real it's no deeper
than what goes on in a supermarket.

Which is another interesting topic: mathematics and/or
high technology and popular culture. Remember when
little short haired boys all wanted to "go to MIT and
be a nuclear physicist". Very unglamorous, that career
path today (not that MIT isn't cool, but because of OLPC
and Pythonic Robotics -- with the women seriously better
than men in many of our movies).

Anyway, that's what I'm talking about under the heading
of "enticements" -- ways to make math more meaningful,
by weaving it in to everyday experience. Or is that
always "rainforest math" by definition? Isn't "check
book math" a good thing though?

How to others weigh in? Are enticements a good thing,
or are all of you as boring as Wayne here?



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