Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
MATH IS LIFE
Whenever my kids complain about their math homework, I always remind them, “Math is life.”
My goal is to make my kids realize that math is not a tedious exercise designed by sadistic school teachers to torture their students, but rather it is the foundation of all of life’s endeavors.
Technically speaking, math is life. If you break down living organisms to their most basic elements, you’ll have quite a puddle on the floor. You’ll also have biology, chemistry, and physics, all of which are specialized fields of mathematics, which means math is life and life is math.
This is why theologians say the language of God is mathematics. (OK, well maybe theologians don’t say that, but mathematicians say it since they’re desperate to convince kids that math is not a tedious exercise designed by sadistic school teachers to torture their students, but rather was invented by God, so go blame Him.)
By the way, God’s native language is ancient Hebrew, but math is His second language, and He speaks it so fluently you can’t even detect an accent.
When I tell my kids that math is life and they should be grateful for the opportunity to acquire such useful knowledge, they reply, “Yeah, well what about algebra? No one uses algebra in the real world.”
“All right,” I concede, “algebra is, in fact, a tedious exercise designed by sadistic school teachers to torture their students, but all the other types of math are very important. You can’t survive in the modern world without good math skills.”
Despite my passionate sermonizing, my kids remain unconvinced. They don’t think math is important. Apparently, most other high school kids in America feel the same way. A study cited in a recent Reader’s Digest article found that 12th-graders in the U.S. rank 19th out of 21 developed nations in math skills. (A statistic which caused the average high school senior to say, “Cool! We’re in the top half!”)
Ignorant high school students eventually become ignorant adults. At this point they are easy prey for people who possess good math skills, but who do not possess the knowledge of Who created math and what He plans to do to those who swindle the least of their brethren. Most of these unscrupulous math majors can be found working for credit card companies and state lottery commissions.
When the prime lending rate is around five or six percent, many people think nothing of paying eighteen percent on their credit card balance. (And the key words in the previous sentence are “think nothing.”) Tony Soprano would be embarrassed to charge such an obscene interest rate in his loan-sharking business.
By far the strongest proof that Americans have poor math skills is the wild popularity of lotteries. If people truly understood the odds, they would not waste their money. (Which is why it is said that lotteries are nothing more than an additional tax on people who did poorly in math class.)
In Connecticut, one of the state lottery slogans is, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” A more truthful slogan would be, “You can’t win.”
Although it’s true that somebody wins the lottery, the fact of the matter is, statistically speaking, it never will be you. Never. I’ve got the figures to back it up.
When the multi-state Powerball jackpot approached $300 million recently, people went crazy with “Lotto fever.” Some folks stood in crushing lines for six hours for the privilege of exchanging their rent and food money for a stack of lotto tickets. It would have been much less of a hassle, not to mention a more honorable mugging, if they had gone instead down a dark alley in a crime-ridden neighborhood with bundles of twenty-dollar bills hanging out of their pockets.
The odds of winning that particular Powerball drawing were one in 80 million. During the frenzy, a TV news reporter pointed out that people have a greater chance of being hit by lighting. This analogy does not do it justice. When the odds of winning the lottery are one in 80 million, you have a better chance of being hit by lighting… while in your basement on a sunny day… at the exact moment the phone rings and it’s President Bush inviting you to dinner at the White House… at the exact moment the front doorbell rings and it’s the Pope asking to use your bathroom… on your birthday… at the exact moment the Red Sox win the World Series.
People with good math skills know how to use money wisely (such as when they bought Lucent Technologies at $75 a share). Math: it’s as easy as one, two, four.
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