Is Algebra Necessary?

” Is Algebra Necessary? “ That was the headline in a New York Times op-ed in 2012. Perhaps New York Times reporters could use a dose.  The following is from the December 28, 2014 issue:

NY Times Lede Is Algebra Necessary?

NY Times Lede (click image for a larger version)

Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) pointed out the problem on Twitter:

Dan Meyer's Markup Is Algebra Necessary?

Dan Meyer’s Markup (click image for a larger version)

Let’s see. Let x be the number of digital rentals and y be the number of sales. We know x + y = 2,000,000. We also know $6x + $15y = $15,000,000. Any student in my economics principles class who could not solve this would not pass the course. But, for the edification of Times reporters, here’s the solution.


I hope this helps people understand why algebra is useful.

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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.