Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday Math, Vol. 113: Algebra meets the IRS

Click on the picture to embiggen.

If you've ever wondered what kind of jokes are posted on the bulletin boards in a math department lounge, wonder no more. I saw this up on the wall at the Laney math lab and I thought it was cute, so here I am posting it on my blog.

There is a little bit of actual pedagogical debate going on behind this parody. Should we teach math methods as a series of steps or should we teach it as formulas? In the 21st Century, the winning side is formulas whenever possible and series of steps, often known as algorithms, only when things get really complicated. By modern standards, the quadratic formula is not considered complicated, since it can be written as a fraction using three unknown values A, B, and C. Back at the end of the 19th Century, a book like Robinson's New Higher Arithmetic avoided formulas like the people of that era avoided flossing. (Obscure reference from Joss Whedon, 'splained up good later today.)

1 comment:

Abu Scooter said...

That's very cute, indeed. All we need now is the 44-page manual that explains how to answer each question.