A modest proposal (or Pie not Pi)

I’ve already admitted that I’m a mathist and that I hate all things number-related. Now that my children are getting older and bringing home more complex math assignments, it’s getting harder for me to respond to their whines of “why do we have to dooo thiiiiis?” At least when they were learning their times tables I could honestly say that they would use them when they grew up. But long division? (hello calculator!) The volume of a cone? (if you ever need to fill up a cone, just fill it up and when it’s full, then you know how much was needed. Why complicate things with math? Just be practical.) And my most hated foe, algebra (letters do not belong in math!)

I had to admit the truth to Finn yesterday. “You won’t use this stuff. Ever. All you need to know about math is how much something costs on sale* and how much to pay your babysitter.” (I happen to know my son is not destined for a career requiring math. It’s just not in the cards for that boy.)

Here is what I know about society. There are a lot of people who don’t know how to cook. Just look at all the fast food and restaurants. And frozen food. It’s not all because people are in a hurry. I’m shocked at how many friends I have that claim they can’t cook and bake; that they never learned how.

Let’s think about this:

1. Every person on this planet eats (some more than others. What? Why are you pointing at me?) Most people eat many times a day.

2. There is a huge problem with obesity, which is especially worrisome in children. It’s easier to become overweight by eating convenience foods than by eating homemade food (unless people spend a lot of time making cookies. Why are you pointing at me again???) But how are you supposed to make homemade food if you don’t know how, and the very thought is completely intimidating?

3. Everyone admires a good cook. Who admires somebody who is good at math? We all just think of them as nerdy.

So my idea is to start a movement to replace high school math with cooking. At least for a couple of years. Way more useful that equations and parabolas. It makes so much sense to teach people to feed themselves and the people they love. Good cooking skills can make a difference to generations of people.

I’m kind of joking, but kind of serious too.

Up with cooking! Down with math! Who’s with me?
Pie not pi!


*although if you shop at Kohl’s they have handy little signs telling you how much something costs once the discount is applied. We math-disabled people appreciated this kind gesture.

| Filed under IMO, School

17 thoughts on “A modest proposal (or Pie not Pi)

  1. Really? I should check out Kohl's.

    And cooking would teach kids fractions! And how to count eggs. I approve.

    BTW, did I ever say your choc chip cookie recipe was good? Because it was.

  2. You make me laugh! I totally see the value of a nutrition (real stuff not faux whatever the trend of the day is…) and cooking class for our kids. Heavens knows I could have benefited from it!

  3. Sign me up! Pie not Pi! But here's the thing, they could learn all kinds of math WHILE learning to cook. Weight, volume, measures, increasing for quantity, etc. I think you need to float this concept!

  4. Hey, fractions and cooking are totally elementary school math. I'm all in favor of that. even middle school math is OK. It's just that high-school mumbo jumbo that seems like complete overkill.

  5. You pain me, really you do. My kids favorite thing to say is "I like Pi." And they mean to leave off the "e". In fact they all designed T-shirts for their school pride days and two made the pi symbol with the first 100 digits as their iron-on.

    I am going to the corner to lick my wounds. And eat some pie, the size of which require pi to ascertain.

  6. I think I've said this before, but I DO admire mathematicians. But I know what side my bread's buttered on. Also I am a nerd–not a math nerd, but a nerd who can appreciate math nerds such as my brothers and the one I'm married to.

    Being able to think logically and solve complex problems are very useful skills, and even if you don't use the specific type of math you'll benefit from the problem-solving experience. You can tell your kids that next time. 🙂

    A couple of years ago I needed to multiply a fraction by a fraction (for a sewing project) and I was very proud of myself when I remembered how. (Yeah, I know, that's very basic math. Still, though.)

  7. Ya, I'm totally on board with this idea. As much for the fact that I'd really appreciate it if I didn't get store bought cookies at one more party as much for the fact that high schooo math is a big fat waste of time!

    I love that in German schools, by the time one graduates 8th grade, one can decide to go on to high school, where one is likely to learn foreign languages, math, and physics, or one can choose reality and decide to go to vocational school and learn things they might actually use in their future. SO smart.

  8. I should preface my comment by making it clear that I understand this post was written as a sort of joke. Behind every joke, there is some truth, though. In this case, seeing as your joke is of expressive purpose, it is only a truth that your personality has imposed. I know many, many people who question the validity of some of the math skills that are routinely taught in school nowadays. While I admit that pulling out a block of graph paper and graphing conics is not something you will ever use again, and that technology has revolutionized the availability of math, the process of learning math is not about the actual subject matter a lot of the time. Learning math is about the problem-solving skill set that mathematical processes improve. Math is not just numbers, and “left-brained” schemes, it is a skill that involves thinking outside of the box, and solving puzzles, something that is crucial for the younger generations to learn as they join the workforce. Learning math also serves as a way to strengthen synapses in the brain. As a child, or even an adult, struggles with a math problem, the struggle builds stronger and more efficient synaptic pathways all across our brain, making us better thinkers, and allowing our brain to become healthier, and sharper overall (not just the parts associated with math). So you see, it’s not just about math, it’s about helping the younger generation expand a skill set that will help them for the rest of their lives, and strengthen their brain as a whole. Cooking is a very useful skill as well, but it does not take as long to develop as the human brain. Lastly, apart from the versatility of the seemingly pointless math problems that are presented to school children, math, apart from God, is the true universal language. Math makes up the beauty of the patterns that our brain recognizes as music, and the delicate patterns of the seashells that washed ashore. Math can explain everything in our material world. We are all math people. It is everywhere, and yet we limit its merit to the barbaric notion that it is merely the scramble of numbers that litter homework assignments when instead, we should be thankful for the beauty it brings to us in the form of rainbows, and the stars in the sky above. This is my two cents, but I hope that you will think about this, and perhaps open your heart to the true nature of math. I’m not saying that this will magically make you love math, or make your children love their math homework, but perhaps a change in disposition would be helpful not only to you, but your children, who might find their school experience enhanced by looking at math from a different perspective. As a classmate of India’s, I’m sure she would at least have a better attitude towards her math homework if she read the was informed that music is half math, half soul (being the great singer that she is).
    I do not, by any means, wish to be disrespectful to your post by the way.

    1. You make a very good point. The universe is made of math. But the fact remains that we all need to eat every day and not very many people know how to feed themselves real food. Our bodies are one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given and it’s hard to treat them well if you can’t cook and must rely on premade crap. So yay for math, boo for homework and bad teachers and yay for homemade yumminess.

  9. I also have to say that I quite enjoyed the title of this piece, as I find Swift’s proposal hilarious. It was a nice spin.

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