Simple questions: How many people do you know who don’t know that ¾=.75=75%? Or that all of them are fractions and represent a portion of a solid, whole entity of many parts?
I wonder about this when I hear it argued that, for example, because there are more illegitimate children born to white women than to black women, that the phenomenon is a worse problem among whites. Do some commentators not understand that 29% of 106 million is going to amount to a larger whole number than 70% of 17 million?*
Over at Avery’s and Cobb’s, the discussion for a bit has been about Math and the general consensus of its “difficulty.” (Tangent: I’ve often said that learning math is easier than learning foreign languages, in that the rules don’t change and that there are a finite--usually--number of answers to a given equation--or translation, to continue the metaphor.)
Cobb says of his sojourn in a “bonehead” university math class:
I learned everything I was supposed to learn since arithmetic in two semesters.(No worries, bro. I had to take a “bonehead” science course. I took the path of least resistance: biology. Got an ‘A,’ but in the regularly bio class I received a ‘B’; and the professor was being generous.)
And Avery, who has taught math to elementary school students, says this:
Here's my take on the reasons behind our [American] lag: we accept mathematical illiteracy. It's not uncommon to hear people say, "I just don't do math" or "I never was any good at that." And I'm not talking about kids here, I'm talking about adults; not them jokers standin' on the corner, either. I'm talmbout college-edumacated; experts in their fields...will tell you that they aren't good at math and don't fool with it on those grounds. And most of us, even if we don't like it, we'll at least accept it. Now if somebody tried to say that about reading, they'd get blasted out of the water. Mathematics is just as fundamental as reading.In my formative years, I was raised my great-aunt—the one I talk about all the time--and great-uncle (RIP). Neither had much education beyond high school. However, they did something very simple with regard to my math education, which has had a rippling effect on how I’ve viewed math since.
When I was four, they start me off with addition and subtraction charts; the next chart was a multiplication chart; the next one, division. Now I’m not going to sit here and say that I figured out immediately that 12+12+12+12+12+12+12+12+12+12+12+12 amounted to the same as 12x12. The theory, however, was that, through repetition of the chart content, I’d be able to parrot that 12x12 equals 144 at the drop of a hat and figure out what it meant later. What my aunt and uncle did is called Building a Foundation.
Oh, I looked like the kindergarten genius alright, but I’m not so sure. All over the landscape, I see little kids of all races commit to memory all manner of foul language and “charming” rap lyrics. From that, it could be concluded that the GIGO axiom is alive and well and living in many American homes, and, unfortunately, in all too many black and latino homes. And, conversely, there could be all manner of “little geniuses” out there waiting for someone to impart the most basic of math literacy to them.
Sure, it’s easy for someone with no offspring to tell others how to raise their children, but, dang, it ain’t that hard to read “Little Red Riding Hood” to your kids--or whatever the latest tomes are for the pre-school set. And, it certainly isn’t difficult to tell them that 1+1=2 or that 81/9=9 and everything in between. All of the implications of those equations will usually follow.
Maybe I was just blessed. However, that doesn’t mean that other children can’t get a little (or a lot) of that particular blessing as well. Caring and time are all it takes.
More from La Shawn.
BTW, here’s a site that I’ve been looking for an excuse to publicize: Who Are The Greatest Black Mathemeticians?
*Estimates of the female population percentage of black and white Americans, assuming that it is 50% for each.
UPDATE: Not sure how to calculate (or, rather, don't feel like calculating) the number of black and white women existing in the US against the number of illegitimately births in 2000--404,000 and 904,000, respectively. But there are the numbers; from the Census.