Just Say No to Woke Math

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Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse just say no to woke math

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California is dumbing down the math curriculum in public schools. I’ve written about this before. Today, Williamson Evers joins me with a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Summarizing both pieces, “just say no to woke math.” From Mr. Evers’s piece:

The [California] framework recommends eight times that teachers use a troubling document, “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.” This manual claims that teachers addressing students’ mistakes forthrightly is a form of white supremacy. It sets forth indicators of “white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom,” including a focus on “getting the right answer,” teaching math in a “linear fashion,” requiring students to “show their work” and grading them on demonstrated knowledge of the subject matter. “The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false,” the manual explains. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuates ‘objectivity.’ ” Apparently, that’s also racist.

There is an infamous anecdote, well-known among engineers. A professor of civil engineering is returning exams. A student (Chris) approaches the professor after class. Forthwith, a conversation ensues.

Chris: This question was worth 25 points. I only got 5 points. Why’d you dock me 20 points?

Prof: You got the wrong answer.

Chris: But I used the right procedure. Shouldn’t that be worth more than 5 points?

Prof: Getting the correct answer is important.

Chris: But 20 points?

Prof: The bridge will fall down.

Exactly. If you use math that says 2+2=5 to design a bridge, it will collapse. Don’t do that.

Back in 1940, designers of the Tacoma (Washington) Narrows Bridge knew that 2+2=4.  But they did not understand harmonic waves.  The result is shown below.  The moral is clear. Engineering requires math.  But make sure you use all the relevant math.

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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.