The Beginning of Summer

Well, here it is. . . .summer. The moment all students and many teachers can’t wait for. However, this year is a little different for me. I had a great job this past year working at Turning Point Learning Center (TPLC). Due to many factors, I may not be working this in the fall. It’s really tough to know that I may not be working with a great faculty that I did this past year. However, from this job I have learned to be a self started life-long learner. Working at TPLC taught me several ways to grab ahold of learning.

In June I will be presenting at I Connect I Learn as well as attending other sessions there. I also plan to go to Podstock in July. However, I started learning more just last night. I started reading the book, “The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS” by Keith “Math Guy” Devlin and Gary Lorden. Even though I have only made it through the first chapter, it has grabbed my attention.

This book takes you behind the numbers that they use in the television show “NUMB3RS” and prove that mathematics is used in the show. Now, I have not really watched the show for a few reasons. 1) Time. . . .I don’t have much time to sit and watch the show. 2) I’m not a big fan of the crime solving television series that are all over. However, now that I’ve started reading this book, I plan on going and finding the show on DVD to watch it. It has pulled me in just with one chapter.

A favorite quote from the book that I’ve found already is on page 8. They are sharing information about the first episode of the show and how the Rigel Analyst program works to find where criminals live. The book points out how the program doesn’t work every time due to the fact that it’s dealing with people. It’s tough to figure out people and how they work. Given that fact, this quote comes from the first chapter.

Many people come away from their high school experience with mathematics thinking that there is right way and wrong way to use math to solve a problem–in too many cases with the teacher’s way being the right one and their own attempts being the wrong one. But this is rarely the case.

THANK YOU!!! Yes, teachers may like you to solve the problem a certain way. That’s because when it comes to grading, it’s easier and quicker (for the teacher). However, we need to let students explore on their own how to solve problems. We as teachers also need to sit down with each student that finds a different way to solve a problem and have them explain to us. Children have different thinking skills and insights to problems that we may have missed. Encourage students to think for themselves. However, the book continues to say:

Mathematics will always give you the correct answer (if you do the math right) when you apply it to very well-defined physical situations, such as calculating how much fuel a jet needs to fly from Los Angeles to New York.

Yes, that is correct. However:

(That is, the math will give you the right answer provided you start with accurate data about the total weight of the plane, passengers, and cargo, the prevailing wind, and so forth. Missing a key piece of input data to incorporate into the mathematical equations will almost always result in an inaccurate answer.)

That’s the important piece to mathematics and getting the correct answer. In the real world:

But when you apply math to a social problem, such as a crime, things are rarely so clear-cut. . . . Mathematical models of the weather often fail because the weather is simply far too complicated (in everyday language, it’s “too unpredictable”) to be captured by mathematics with great accuracy.

The weather is crazy. For instance this past couple of days much of Kansas was in a big threat for tornadoes, yet we didn’t really see any. (That’s off topic, back to the book.)

This book has grabbed my attention. I always new that NUMB3RS had great insight to the math in crime, but I never really watched. Now that I’ve started this book, I’ve gotta go see it. I look forward to sharing more thoughts on this book and the show.

Feel free to join me in reading the book or watching the show. Also, PLEASE comment and share your thoughts of the show if you have seen it. What do you notice about it? What educational values does the show hold for the math classroom?

About Anthony Purcell

I am Anthony Purcell and I am currently teaching math in Oklahoma.
This entry was posted in Algebra, Data Gathering, Education, Geometry, Math, NUMB3RS, Project Based Learning, School, Summer Reading, Teachers, Teaching, Technology, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Beginning of Summer

  1. Peggy Matthews says:

    I consider myself a life-long learner too. I feel that work gets in the way of that some of the time. Great blog.

  2. Daisy says:

    I watched the show a few times with my husband – and because Rob Morrow is rather cute. This book sounds fascinating!

  3. Pingback: Dat A Mine Statistic Not Yours | Educationally Minded

  4. Trenna says:

    I dropped STATS 3 times…oh how you have earned a place in my heart for filling me in on a semester of info in a quick FREE read! YOU ARE MY HERO! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Mathematics Changes in the Courtroom | Educationally Minded

  6. Pingback: Digging Deeper into Numbers Behind NUMB3RS | Educationally Minded

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