Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

Archive for the tag “Common Core”

Egyptian Math for the Common Core

A short while back, one of my friends posted a series of videos on Facebook complaining about the Common Core standards which are being rolled out in the United States. Unsurprisingly, not a single one of the videos actually addresses the standards laid out by the Common Core– despite their being freely available on the Internet— and instead the videos display knee-jerk reactions to specific teaching methodologies which are not understood by the complainants. Generally, these sorts of arguments against the Common Core focus on the methods of early, basic arithmetic taught in the 3rd and 4th grades. At this stage, the Core requires that students become familiar with the nature of a base-10 counting system, such as the one we utilize. The Indian-Arabic number system which we have adopted for mathematics has the benefit of simplifying these base-10 properties, but unfortunately that comes at the cost of obfuscation.

Teaching the base-10 system as it ought to be initially taught– without the shortcuts inherent in Indian-Arabic numerals– is a very alien procedure to most people. Because it is new and strange and takes more steps to accomplish than the familiar method of arithmetic, parents are frightened and confused; and when parents are frightened and confused, they tend to lash out rather than taking the time to actually learn the purpose and reasoning behind the methodology.

It occurs to me that a possible solution might be found in Egyptian arithmetic.

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The Elements of Geometry

Some time ago, I wrote about Alexandria, the most important city in history, briefly discussing the lives of just 17 of the men and women that made it so. Prime to that list, both in sequence and in importance, was Euclid of Alexandria, a personal hero of mine who I consider to be one of the most inspirational and influential people in all of human history. We know next to nothing about Euclid’s life– we do not know where or when he was born, where or when he died, and extremely little about the time between those events. We know that he lived in Alexandria at roughly the same time as Ptolemy I, circa 300 BCE, and we know that he wrote prolifically about mathematics. Yet, even with so very little information as this, I would strongly argue that Euclid contributed far more to the world than did much more well-known figures like the great historian, Herodotus; or the conquering emperor, Julius Caesar; or even the revolutionary preacher, Jesus of Nazareth. What could Euclid have possibly done that outshines these other, great men? Euclid of Alexandria wrote the Elements.

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