I will never forget my high school math teacher who taught math throughout my sophomore, junior and senior years including Algebra II, Trigonometry, Calculus and more. At first, I was mostly bored in his class because at the beginning of each year it seemed like it was just a refresher of what I had already learned. I joke a lot because I’m bored and I’m a smart Alec, and I think I got away with it because I was at the top of my class. But my math teacher knew how to shut me up quickly. He would start writing what looked like hieroglyphs on the blackboard.
Then he would say to me, “Okay, Mr. Smarty-Pants, what’s the answer?” Sometimes I can follow me and I’m lucky and get the right answer, but he’s mostly playing around with what’s in my head at the time Can’t figure out the math, it’s totally challenging me. Then after he put me in his place he would call me for the rest of the class; “old numb here, yada, yada” but we’ve been getting along just fine because he’s also an adult in our HS chess club consultant.
I was talking to a retired high school math teacher the other day and it reminded me of the good old days and what I often imagine Richard A. Mueller said. If you don’t know Mueller, he’s a Berkeley professor who teaches “The Physics of Future Presidents – The Science Behind the Headlines,” the title of his best-selling book. I don’t know why I imagine Dr. Richard A. Muller. Said so, but that’s what I said, I heard him say in my head;
“Don’t be a stupid human, learn your math!”
As you know we need to challenge our kids in high school but we also need to make math fun and interesting because if we lose their interest they won’t learn anything and they won’t enjoy it subject, so they don’t try and they don’t care. I think one of the best things a math professor can do is when they teach, they should give examples of what happens if you mess up an equation, or the answer to an application question is wrong.
After all, most math teachers, especially when they start learning advanced math to freshmen, need to keep it interesting by solving problems using real-world examples of problems. Maybe what we should do is show what happens if kids get the wrong answer. In other words, a passenger train hits a freight train, a car fails to turn, or your bubble bath floods your apartment and your neighbor is below you. Because this makes math real, it becomes very important, but most importantly, it makes it fun.
It’s up to professors and teachers to explain why math is so important and what happens when humans don’t learn math. You know all the stupid things humans do because they don’t learn math, or get wrong answers. Indeed, I hope you will think about all this and think about it.