# Category: Science/Math

## High School Math in Middle School

In September, my granddaughter Rhiannon (then 13) made an aggressive and courageous mathematical decision. Coming off acing ninth-grade Algebra 1 the previous year, she convinced her middle school to let her double up in math: her eighth grade schedule would include both Algebra 2 and Geometry.

Her mother (my daughter Emily) was concerned about the workload; her father was convinced it was foolhardy. To complicate the decision, scheduling conflicts made it impossible for her to take Geometry in her middle school; it had to be an online course. I volunteered to be her mentor. (Full disclosure: my last Geometry course was 1958-59.)
Continue reading “High School Math in Middle School”

## Betting on the World Series

You pays your money and you takes your chances, but the House always has an edge.

Did you ever wonder how big that edge is?

Among the simplest edges to compute is Las Vegas roulette.  If your chips are on one of the numbers from 1 to 36, and you win, you get paid 35-1. That means that if you put \$1 on each of those 36 numbers, when the ball drops onto one of those numbers, you’ll get your winning bet back plus \$35; you’ll break even. Those are fair odds.  But the House, as I said, always has an edge. Las Vegas wheels include two other numbers that also pay 35-1: 0 and 00. So to be sure you’ll win, you’d have to place 38 one-dollar bets, thus giving the House a \$2 profit on every \$38 you bet (a 5.26% margin). Continue reading “Betting on the World Series”

## Innumeracy and Chicanery

I am no fan of standardized testing, but New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof appears to be. And his 4/25 column (“Are You Smarter Than an 8th Grader?”), which uses such measuring tools to make a point, is distressingly misleading.

In order to demonstrate our country’s incompetence in mathematics, he presents three questions from a 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) test administered worldwide to eighth graders.

The first question:

What is the sum of the three consecutive whole numbers with 2n as the middle number?

6n+3
6n
6n-1
6n-3

Only 37% of USA kids got it right (the correct answers are at the bottom of this post). Continue reading “Innumeracy and Chicanery”

## Nigerian Scam Mathematics

Over the last 15 years or so I have received perhaps as many as a dozen emails frantically explaining that I have millions of dollars waiting for me in Nigeria if only I would help some poor, benighted soul get his money out of a locked bank account. Usually the scam requires I provide my  banking info so that funds can be transferred into my account. What the scammer hopes is that I am greedy or gullible enough to get involved…and then there will be complications that need some quick cash from me to bribe someone or pay for a transfer license, or some such expense.

Of course I’ve never done it. And I bet neither have you.

Why haven’t we? Continue reading “Nigerian Scam Mathematics”

## Mysteries

I very much admire and agree with the comment made by my daughter, Emily Cotler, about a photo taken by her friend, Lisa Boscia Bouillerce.

Wow.

I imagine myself in ancient Athens, or ancient Wales, or some other place thick with polytheistic mythology…

Looking at this, of course that’s a Sun God, or some ominous portent, the story of which will help shape the moral compass of my village.

Sometimes it’s just less rich to live in a post-modern, monotheistic society where something as beautiful as this can be explained in a quick Google search or an unearthed mental fragment from a college class of distant past… Crepuscular rays, every magical aspect of which can be explained by science…

## Curiosity’s Mars Landing

What a world we live in!

I just finished watching a live online feed from Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the lander entered the Martian atmosphere and made its miraculous way down from an eight-month journey. It touched down at 10:39 pm PDT.

We now have a multi-ton, mobile scientific laboratory on the surface of Mars.

The obvious excitement at JPL as the spacecraft neared Mars was thrilling to Continue reading “Curiosity’s Mars Landing”