Q&A #19119

Why study beyond the basics?

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From: Ralph (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Dec 05, 2007 at 15:26:59
Subject: Re: Why study beyond the basics?

Dear Mark, Thank you for writing to T2T. It's interesting that in these times, when more and more we're being bombarded with numerical data, that students (and adults!) still feel that there is no need for quantitative literacy! It's true that there can be a snappy comeback for any example of a real-life mathematical application. The question I ask my students in response to such (what they consider to be "witty") responses is, "Do you REALLY want to put your faith/trust in someone else, or worse, a machine, for all your mathematical decisions?" I tell them that over my (admittedly very LONG!) life, I have, without exaggeration, saved myself THOUSANDS of dollars by catching errors made in calculations by others. Fundamental NUMBER SENSE is crucial to ensuring that we aren't victims to instances of innumeracy that abound!! (mainly committed by those who believed, as your students do, that they didn't need to know math! :) Ask your students if they have any idea how big a "mistake" can be made just by accidentally punching ONE extra number on a calculator?! :) One very quick example, just from a couple of weeks ago: I took my car in for a "Winter Tune-up" service, advertised as including quite a list of services, for $79.95. When I picked up my car, the bill was for over $130, all "nicely itemized and accounted for". It seems that "the cash register" [yup, the one your students are so willing to trust], automatically added an extra charge for a service that was included in the "Winter Tune-Up". When I questioned it, it was removed from the bill, saving me $50+. I know that won't convince many of your students, but it may persuade some of your more independent ones that they might not want to be too hasty to entrust themselves and their hard-earned money to machines and other people! Hope this helps, -Ralph, for the T2T service

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