It’s Not About the Standards

Dear Indiana,

It’s not about the standards.

I’m very glad that you have abandoned the Common Core, “designed [your] own standards” and, according to Gov. Mike Pence, “done it in a way where we drew on educators, we drew on citizens, we drew on parents.” This sounds familiar. Where have I heard such rhetoric before? Oh, that’s right… the NGA and CCSSO sang the praises of a similar process when the Common Core standards were developed.

And I love what you’ve done with your new standards! Look at this gem from the proposed Indiana standards for Grade 6:

Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.

You radicals, you! What a deviation from the Common Core State Standards for Grade 6! To wit:

Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.

How dare those pundits who called your new standards nothing more than a “warmed-over version” of the Common Core! I don’t think that’s true at all. Rather, I think they are better described as a “still-warm version,” since you didn’t let Common Core’s body get cold before pilfering verbiage.

But there are differences, to be sure. Like with ratios, where you ask students to know the three notations of a/b, a:b, and a to b. Well, bully for you! Chart your own course! Spread your wings!

Personally, I cannot wait for the new Indiana standards to be passed on April 28, and your school districts can once again adjust their curriculum, and teachers can change their lesson plans, in preparation for the new standards. Won’t that be fun, just two years after they started adjusting curriculum and changing lesson plans to prepare for Common Core? Perhaps they’ll get to do it again in 2017, when the political winds shift and his constituents decide that Governor Pence needs a different job.

Indiana - Uncommonly HighAnd by the way, Governor Pence, I’d like to commend your cheeky use of the phrase “uncommonly high” to describe the new Indiana state standards. Bravo! What better way to trumpet your DOE’s good work than to sound like a Keebler elf at a NORML rally?

I cannot wait until that becomes the new state motto and starts appearing on license plates.

But I digress, so let me return to my point.

It’s not about the standards.

It’s not about whether students solve quadratic equations by plugging numbers into the quadratic formula or by completing the square. It’s not about whether students should graph quadratic functions with a calculator or by hand. It’s not even about whether or not students should learn about quadratics.

It’s about effective teaching and student learning.

It’s about a common discussion regarding what needs to happen in math education.

It’s about teachers from Wisconsin and California and Vermont and Alabama engaged in dialogue as professionals, in a community where their opinions matter and they are not merely enacting a pacing guide created to fulfill state mandates.

When I travel to New Orleans in a few weeks for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Meeting, there’ll be conversations between educators from different states. And sure, some of those conversations will be about effective strategies and exceptional classroom activities. But most of them will be comparing the classroom ramifications of political decisions.

  • Oh, you get to teach math on a block schedule? That’s what our teachers wanted, but our administrators wouldn’t go for it.
  • I would LOVE to have a SMART Board in my class. But our school board voted for new football uniforms instead of more technology.
  • Well, maybe you thought it was good, but our district doesn’t teach adding fractions until Grade 7, so I’m not sure anything covered in this workshop will be relevant to me.

Don’t get me wrong, Hoosiers. I’m not mad at the state of Indiana. Hell, I love auto racing, Larry Bird, and corn. Instead, I’m frustrated at the state of education. How did we let things come to this?


Ed U. Kader

March 25, 2014 at 1:59 am Leave a comment

Math is Retarded

Eugene MirmanI have neither the talent nor the popularity of stand-up comedian Eugene Mirman. (As an example of his talent, you can check out the commencement speech he gave at Hampshire College in 2012. As evidence of his popularity, he often appears on StarTalk Radio with Neil de Grasse Tyson.)

Nor do I have the chutzpah.

In 2005, he received an email with subject line, “You Suck.” After several other messages from Mike and Josh, two email hecklers from Connecticut, they asked if he’d invite them on stage during his show in New Haven.

He did.

He then read one of their emails to the audience (in my opinion, giving these buffoons more stage time than they deserved). But then he proceeded to flame them, using material he found on the Internet. Mike was on stage during this roasting; Josh, however, had not come to the show.

Josh got the worst of it.

You can see the entire exchange on YouTube, but this is what Mirman said about Josh:

Josh, there is less about you on the Web, but your email address — mathisretarded — speaks volumes. Let me get this straight. Here’s a situation: You approach a hooker. She tells you a blowjob will cost $15, but you only have a twenty. And you think figuring out the change “is retarded.” I’ll tell you what it is, don’t worry. It’s $5.

Josh, without math, we wouldn’t have computers or email. Without math, we wouldn’t know how many lonely, naked Asian teens there are in the world. There are over 7,500. Sorry to use such a big number, Josh. Let me try to help you understand it. Imagine how retarded you are. Now multiply that by 1. That’s right — you’re 7,500 retarded.

That’s pretty much it.

Should I ever have need to put an email heckler in his or her place, I hope I have both the guts and eloquence to do it as effectively as Eugene Mirman.

And no, that is not meant to be an invitation to heckle me just to see if I’m up to the challenge.

March 20, 2014 at 6:19 am 2 comments

All Beer and Skittles

The winter has been unkind to my waist, so I joined a month-long fitness challenge at the gym. I asked one of the trainers what I should do to win. “Drink 25 beers on Saturday night,” he said.


“Because the weigh-in is Sunday morning, and you want to be heavy as possible.”

“Yeah, I get that,” I replied. “But there are 24 bottles in a case. Okay if I stop there?”

How many is too many? Hard to say…

Teacher: If I had 5 bottles in one hand and 6 bottles in the other hand, what would I have?
Student: A drinking problem?

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, here are a few more beer jokes.

If you pour root beer in a square cup, will it become beer?

And who doesn’t like a joke that makes fun of professors?

A literature professor, a computer scientist, and a mathematician head to a pub. They each order a pint of beer, and when the drinks are brought to the table, each pint has a fly in it.

The literature professor pushes her beer away in disgust.

The computer scientist removes the fly and proceeds to drink his beer.

The mathematician picks the fly out of his drink, too, but then holds it out over the beer and yells, “Spit it out, you little bastard!”

March 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm 2 comments

What Time Is It?

Here’s a math puzzle that is rather easy. Or is it?

You look in a mirror and see the reflection of a clock. In the reflection, the clock appears to show a time of 11:51. What is the real time?

Before I share the solution, how ’bout some clock jokes?

A hungry clock goes back four seconds.

I spent 35 minutes fixing a broken clock yesterday.
At least, I think it was 35 minutes…

What’s the difference between a man and a broken clock?
At least a broken clock is right twice a day.

It took me four hours to eat a dozen clocks.
It was very time consuming.

An alarm clock made of herbs will help you wake up on thyme.

My clock stopped at 8:23 a.m. I’m going to have a day of morning.

Puzzle Solution

The puzzle above is based on a math trivia question I found at Trivia Cafe.

The answer could be 12:09, if the reflection in the mirror looks like this…

11:51 Analog Clock

Then again, the answer could be 12:11, if the reflection in the mirror looks like this…

11:51 Digital Clock

And of course, there are all the silly possibilities — for instance, if the clock is broken, it doesn’t matter what time shows in the reflection, regardless if it’s analog or digital.

March 8, 2014 at 4:22 am Leave a comment

The Force is Strong with This One

My sons are now six years old. It’s high time they’ve seen Star Wars. Some would argue I’ve already waited too long.

Star WarsSo we borrowed the six DVD set from a neighbor — yes, I’m a terrible geek who doesn’t own the set myself. Just as we settled in to watch it, my phone rang. Foolishly, I went upstairs and answered it. I got into a ten-minute phone call with an old friend. About once a minute, my wife would come upstairs and ask, “Can we start the movie?” and I would answer, “No.”

Finally, she stopped asking and just started the movie. I heard the sound of Imperial gunfire and C-3PO say, “Did you hear that? They shut down the main reactor. We’ll be destroyed for sure!”

I told my friend, “I have to go.”

“Why would you start it without me?” I asked my wife.

“You were on the phone.”

“I know,” I said. “But I want to watch it with the boys.”

“It just started. You didn’t miss much.”

“I missed the opening text and half of the first scene!”

“Why are you so upset?” she asked.

She just didn’t get it.

Watching Star Wars is a rite of passage, meant to be shared by father and son. And I wanted to share every frame with them. It’s replaced buying your son a beer on his 21st birthday as the most important moment between a father and son.

Okay, maybe I’m overstating it.

But, still. It’s important. I wanted to be there for this one, since there are so many other rites to which I won’t be privy.

His first kiss.

His first beer.

His first strip club.

His first Möbius strip club — where the ladies are beautiful, but they’ll only show you one side.

His first road trip.

His first math purity test.

His first attempt to trisect an angle.

And the list goes on.

But the real reason I’m writing this. The incident above happened two days ago, and we’ve watched Episode IV. As a purist, I believe you have to watch the original first. But now what? Do I go with Machete Order for the remaining five? Or ascending? Chronological? Help, please!

March 5, 2014 at 5:04 am 1 comment

If I Had a Million Dollars…

The Daily Prompt at the Daily Post @ WordPress for December 28 gave the following hypothetical situation:

You’ve just won $1 billion dollars in the local lottery. You do not have to pay tax on your winnings. How will you spend the money?

I would have written about this sooner, but I’ve been too busy (a) fantasizing about how I’d spend that kind of money, (b) sending emails to the Daily Post telling them that they needn’t be so greedy; a million dollars would be plenty, and (c) sending more emails to the Daily Post telling them that the lottery is a tax on the mathematically challenged, that it’s insane to think that such a lottery would have no tax implications, that no lottery has ever had a billion-dollar prize, and that promulgating the possibility of winning such an unlikely sum only gives hope to those who should be putting their money in a savings account instead.

But I digress.

Part of me thinks I’d heed the advice of the Barenaked Ladies…

If I had a million dollars
I’d buy you some art
A Picasso or a Garfunkel

But I’m not sure that a million dollars would be enough to afford a painting by the world’s greatest cubist or to purchase the poet who rode Paul Simon’s coattails to musical fame, so instead I’d commission a mathematical sculpture by Zach Abel. Or maybe I’d just buy binder clips and construct some sculptures myself — at $3.68 per dozen, I could afford enough binder clips to make 746,268 copies of Stressful:

Part of me thinks I’d just withdraw the money in $1 bills from the bank. But how would I get it home? Do you have any idea how much that would weigh? Take some time to figure it out… the result will surprise you. The FAQ at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving might be helpful, as might this picture of a million dollars, although it’s $100 bills, not singles:

Million Dollars

And here’s a great problem about $1,000,000, which I learned from Martin Gardner:

On January 1, I deposited $x in a bank account. On January 2, I deposited $y in the same account. Every day thereafter, I deposited an amount equal to the sum of the previous two days’ deposits. On January 20, I deposited exactly $1,000,000. How much did I deposit on January 1?

February 28, 2014 at 10:50 pm Leave a comment

Specialized Language of Mathematics

The High School Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics says that materials aligned with CCSSM should emphasize mathematical reasoning by “explicitly attending to the specialized language of mathematics.”

I am greatly concerned by this, as there is much confusion about many of the most important words in mathematics.

Words like dodecagon


…or coordinate axes

Coordinate Axes

…or hypotenuse

High Pot In Use

…or quartiles


…or spheroid

Preparation S

The Common Core mathematics glossary contains 52 terms, yet none of the five listed above are on that list. I certainly hope the glossary committee will consider adding some of them.

February 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm Leave a comment

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About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.


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