Hard Numbers, Hard Living

On EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse confronts the challenge of basic math education: “we need to find a balance between hammering the basic skills, while also making it clear that there is so much more to mathematics than arithmetic.”  Rosenhouse rejects the approach of New Math, “teaching grade-schoolers about set theory and the axiomatic method,” instituted briefly in the U.S. after the Soviets launched a giant ball bearing named Sputnik into orbit.  Rosenhouse goes on to question whether teachers should emphasize experimental mathematics, wherein the brute force of computation is used to identify overarching laws and properties.  And in a third post, Rosenhouse explores strategies for making introductory calculus less boring for undergrads.  He writes, “Some rigor must be sacrificed to do what I am suggesting. I have no problem with that. For beginning students, rigor is often the enemy of clarity.”  Finally, on The Pump Handle, Elizabeth Grossman breaks out the calculator to determine what kind of living is possible on a full-time Wal-Mart wage.  A single parent with a child, living in a relatively low-cost area, after paying for rent, utilities, food, public transportation, and income tax, would have about $5 a day left over to pay for child care, internet service, health insurance, clothing, toiletries, further education, a 401k contribution, and anything else.  Grossman concludes, “This is the the kind of challenge facing at least half of Walmart’s 1.3 million US employees.”