The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 16, 2000


A Father Meets Math Again

I have no knowledge of new curriculums for teaching math -- only knowledge of an old one. I've been trying it out on my eight-year-old, just as my dad tried it out on me. It's called sports. Just about any will do. For addition and subtraction, basketball seems to provide the most opportunities. Evan and I sit watching while computing the ever-changing differences between two teams' point totals. For multiplication and division, baseball is the undisputed king, what with ERA'S, RBI'S, and the rest. But for higher math, football probably will be the preferred professor, with salary cap problems making up most of the curriculum.

The best math exercises seem to come within the context of sports arguments. When Evan continued to argue with me over Ken Griffey's home run total (he claimed 500 plus), I countered successfully by demonstrating how many 40-homer seasons Griffey would have had to have played to reach 500. Then there are the more complicated arguments, value-laden arguments comparing multiple sets of data, particularly arguments over who is or was the better player. Babe Ruth was a pitcher and a home-run hitter, so how does one compare the Bambino to Ty Cobb, who batted for average? Sandy Koufax was unbeatable for about five years in his very short career, while Walter Johnson and Cy Young were, on average, less remarkable but had remarkably long careers. Heady problems showing that figures and figuring aren't always about what is "objective"!

Evan and I are only just beginning to explore this old curriculum. I suspect the computer with its graphing capabilities will push us to go beyond the curriculum of my dad. If that happens, I will become the student with Evan as my teacher, but that, I guess, won't be so bad.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito