This Week’s Installment
What mathematical skill is the textbook trying to teach with this image?
(If you’re reading via email or RSS, you’ll need to click through to vote. Also, you’ll need to check that link tomorrow for the answer.)
Bad trend here. I do not like it.
Team Me: 4
Team Commenters: 1
And no fewer than three people — Bodil Isaksen, Jocelyn Dagenais, and David Petro — sent me the following problem, created by a French teacher.
And I don’t know. The jist of the problem is that two soccer players are arguing about the perfection of one of their dabs. They consult a universal dabbing rulebook which says that in a perfect dab those triangles above must be right triangles. And it’s all pretty winking, right? It can’t be pseudocontext if it isn’t actually trying to be context in the first place, right? The judges give it a pass.
Every Saturday, I post an image from a math textbook. It’s an image that implicitly or explicitly claims that “this is how we use math in the world!”
I post the image without its mathematical connection and offer three possibilities for that connection. One of them is the textbook’s. Two of them are decoys. You guess which connection is real.
After 24 hours, I update the post with the answer. If a plurality of the commenters picks the textbook’s connection, one point goes to Team Commenters. If a plurality picks one of my decoys, one point goes to Team Me. If you submit a mathematical question in the comments about the image that isn’t pseudocontext, collect a personal point.
(See the rationale for this exercise.)
The commenters win a second straight week.
The judges rule that this problem satisfies the first criterion for pseudocontext:
Given a context, the assigned question isn’t a question most human beings would ask about it.
A question that might neutralize the pseudocontext is: “Can all of these smoke jumpers ride in the same plane together? How would you arrange them so the plane is properly balanced?”
Instead, the task here is to find mean, median, mode, standard deviation, first quartile, third quartile, the interquartile range, the maximum, the minimum, the variance, etc, etc.
Do you get my point? Yes, all of those operations could be performed on those numbers. We often assign all of the math that could be done in a context without asking ourselves, what math must be done in the context? What math does the context demand?”