April 2007 Archives

"Economical" Mathematics

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One of the sites I visit regularly is the Numb3rs blog, written by a mathematician at Northeastern University. The site deals with the math topics that arise in the show of the same name. (No link given, for reasons below.) He does a great job of explication, and provides some interesting links. It certainly makes the show more enjoyable knowing that there is a good independent reference for the material.

But I find this odd:

Numb3rs appears on CBS which is part of CBS-Paramount, a very large corporate entity, as is TI. Neither supports this blog in any way even though your blogmeister reviews scripts for mathematical content gratis for the show. I do this as an effort to promote the understanding of mathematics -- the same reason I write this blog. In spite of several requests, neither CBS nor TI will provide a link on any of their websites to this blog; they won't even mention it as a resource. What's even more surprising is that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), a group supposedly dedicated to mathematics education, and tied rather closely to TI, has also refused to reference this blog as a resource for mathematics education.

I suppose this could simply be another case of old media not quite understanding the value of having numerous in-roads for new viewers. The number of math blogs has blossomed of late (witnessed by the flourishing -- and highly entertaining -- Carnival of Mathematics), much like economics blogs in 2005/2006. CBS and Texas Instruments are, of course, private entities free to link to whomever and whatever they wish. Though, if they want to willingly ignore -- while relying on the expertise of -- their best ambassador, I'll feel free to ignore linking to their sites.

And while I don't find it at all surprising, I do think the most telling piece of information is the fact that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics are so dense as to ignore the value of something like the Numb3rs blog. While Dr. Bridger makes some note of the NCTM's connections with TI, I can't speak to it directly -- unfortunately, I also have no reason to doubt it, either.

Aside: Access to the NCTM's documented standards for math education is pay-for-play. Seems they've learned a bit of economics themselves. Though not enough; free dissemination of the work might promote wider adoption. Never forget that not-for-profit is not equivalent to not-for-revenue. End aside.

That a public group has decided to shun connections to anyone outside their direct control is sad, though not at all unusual. Perhaps the decision to ignore Dr. Bridger's site is a remnant of the rift NCTM had with groups of actual mathematicians who disagreed with their attempts to revive the New Math teaching paradigm. The narrow view emphasizes the fact that groups like the NCTM are largely more concerned with their own existence than in achieving their stated goals. What could possibly hurt in showing kids the work that actual, employed mathematicians do on a day to day basis? Unless, of course, that means they get exposed to things that contradict the "consensus" view of the NCTM.

-The NCTM recommends "decreased attention" for "finding exact forms of answers". (5.8.O)

I'm sure this is comforting to anyone who relies on, well, anything built by engineers.

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