January 25, 2008, - 1:09 am

Dumbing America Down, Fuzzy Math Edition: Say Good-Bye to Fractions, Etc.

By Debbie Schlussel
Figuring out how to cut ingredients to reduce the amount of a dish you are cooking for two instead of eight? Trying to figure out a third of the distance down a wall to figure where to place furniture?
You know how to do this if you have even a modicum of proficiency in fractions and division. But if your kids are taught math according to the principles of renowned University of Pennsylvania math professor Dennis DeTurck, they won’t be able to do these things without an electronic gizmo to think for them. DeTurck, also dean of the college of arts and sciences at Penn, wants to get rid of fractions. He also wants to banish division, square roots, and multiplication.


Weird Science: Math Prof Dennis DeTurck Wants to Abolish Fractions

That’s right, say good-bye to real math. It’s a liberal’s outcome-based education wet dream. And it’s gaining acceptance as Profesor DeTurck gets ready to release a new book attacking traditional math taught in schools. Just as our students are failing even more versus the rest of the world in math and the inextricably-linked science, we need to make them more dumb and ignorant in those disciplines? Yes, if Dr. DeTurck gets his way. They can do it on a calculator on their cellphone, apparently. And he says they can use decimals, instead:

A few years ago, Dennis DeTurck, an award-winning professor of mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, stood at an outdoor podium on campus and proclaimed, “Down with fractions!”
“Fractions have had their day
, being useful for by-hand calculation,” DeTurck said as part of a 60-second lecture series. “But in this digital age, they’re as obsolete as Roman numerals are.” . . .
DeTurck is stirring the pot again, this time in a book scheduled to be published this year. Not only does he favor the teaching of decimals over fractions to elementary school students, he’s also taking on long division, the calculation of square roots and by-hand multiplication of long numbers. . . .
Questioning the wisdom of teaching fractions to young students doesn’t compute with people such as George Andrews, a professor of mathematics at Pennsylvania State University and president-elect of the American Mathematical Society. “All of this is absurd,” Andrews said. “No wonder mathematical achievements in the country are so abysmal.
“Arithmetic is the basic skill. . . . It’s fine to talk about it, but this is not a good pedagogy.” . . .
DeTurck does not want to abolish the teaching of fractions and long division altogether. He believes fractions are important for high-level mathematics and scientific research. But it could be that the study of fractions should be delayed until it can be understood, perhaps after a student learns calculus, he said. Long division has its uses, too, but maybe it doesn’t need to be taught as intensely.
Penn State mathematician Andrews says he believes DeTurck’s ideas will “unfortunately” gain traction because of the misguided belief that math education can somehow be made easy:
“Math is hard. The idea that somehow we’re going to make math just fun is just a dream.”

Glad to see that some academics don’t buy this intellectually bankrupt tripe.
Heaven help us, if there is ever another massive power outage as there was in 2003, and a cellphone calculator is unavailable when the battery wears out. Or what about a Katrina-like flood? If we turn out more ignoramuses who can’t divide or multiply in their heads or on paper, it could be fatal in a disaster. You cannot rely on machines to replace your intellect.
Dumbing America Down and Defining Math Down Will Be Our Death. Welcome to “Idiocracy.” Just like the movie.

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16 Responses

How can fractions ever die with half-wits like this guy around!

Shy Guy on January 25, 2008 at 6:34 am

Ladies and gentlemen…………. Tom Lehrer!!!!

Shy Guy on January 25, 2008 at 6:41 am

More funny math . . .

justamomof4 on January 25, 2008 at 8:41 am

Same skit used by Abbott & Costello:
At least twice:

Shy Guy on January 25, 2008 at 9:12 am

You wonder why people younger than me is coming out of school not knowing much? Death Busters like that old fart there. Hey Dennis…your experation date has expired!

Squirrel3D on January 25, 2008 at 9:32 am

Hate to tell you, professor, but the last time I looked, Roman numerals were anything BUT “obsolete.” Fortunately, at least in my kids’ schools, they are still taught (like fractions, you idiot!). I see “involuntary retirement” in the future, Herr Professor.

theendisnear on January 25, 2008 at 9:38 am

As ridiculous as it may seem,I’m not shocked by this considering that I heard about a while ago that some schools in certain districts were contemplating about banning homework all together enabeling the kids to concentrate better in school without the stress of being burdened with homework. Kids are becoming more spoiled and pampered by the generation. Mind you that I’m in my early 20’s but what I had to go through in my school career now seems obsolete in comparison. Soon they’ll debar midterms from the school ciriculium nation wide if this insanity continues to pervade. If they had to ban a useless subject, they should target PDA (Pluralism and Diversity in America).

American Sabrah on January 25, 2008 at 11:11 am

Here’s a college math instructor who explains why failing to learn traditional multiplication interferes with the learing of algebra:

photoncourier.blogspot.com on January 25, 2008 at 11:15 am

What an elitist piece of shit. Fractions, percentages, portions are used everyday in business and home life. His theory is like saying that we should rid our language of words like ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘they’ etc. because they don’t fit into his perceived view of the world!!
Hey professor, it’s time to get your diaper changed and have your serving of green jell-o. Let’s keep the critical thinking process amongst sane and rational people!!

newinnewark on January 25, 2008 at 11:31 am

Teaching Math in 1950:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?
Teaching Math in 1960:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?
Teaching Math in 1970:
A logger exchanges a set “L” of lumber for a set “M” of money. The cardinality of set “M” is 100. Each element is worth one dollar. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set “M.” The set “C,” the cost of production contains 20 fewer points than set “M.” Represent the set “C” as subset of set “M” and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set “P” of profits?
Teaching Math in 1980:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.
Teaching Math in 1990:
By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels “feel” as the logger cut down the trees? There are no wrong answers.
Teaching Math in 2002:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $120. How does Arthur Andersen determine that his profit margin is $60?
Teaching Math in 2010:
El hachero vende un camion cargado de lena por $100. Su gasto de produccion es……..

MarySJ on January 25, 2008 at 12:13 pm

I suggest that Penn give this man a fraction of his present salary.

chsw on January 25, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Herr Professor is obviously a rotten instructor if cannot teach something as simple as fractions. It is this simple aforementioned fact gives him the reason for his preference to eliminate the teaching of fractions.
I loved that teaching in history of math. Thank you Mary.
I believe that algebra should be taught along side of the basics of math at an early age so the children can better understand the concept of going left of zero on the number line. Many of my peers had difficulty with this concept.
New reasons to keep the state out of schools.

warpmine on January 25, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Love your “Teaching Math” essay, MarySJ, particularly the sad irony of that last entry (2010).
Look at the first (1950) entry — what it basically comes down to, in education as in everything else: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”.

theendisnear on January 25, 2008 at 8:37 pm

It’s a small point but, as a practical matter, even back before calculators, nobody used that old by-hand algorithm (it looks a little like long division) to find square roots. What they used was logarithms: divide the log by two and you’ve got the log of the square root. At college the techies carried slide rules, essentially logarithms-on-a-stick.
With the advent of the pocket calculator, common logarithms (i.e., base 10) have disappeared as a computational tool. Today their main surviving use is in decibel notation. On the other hand, natural logarithms (i.e., base e = 2.718….) are alive and well, and will always be so because they occur naturally in the solution of some important differential equations.
Oh, and yes, of course children should be taught fractions. Pure mathematicians think funny things sometimes — look at Kaczynski.

John West on January 26, 2008 at 11:19 am

I recall reading a scifi story years ago by Issac Asminov. The premise was that two worlds were at war. No one could do math anymore, computers were relied upon, and since each computer was able to predict what the other would do, the status quo was maintained for years and years. Until it was found that one man, simply for his own amusement, learned again how to do simple math, which astounded those in power. They were able to take his knowledge and build on it to enter an unpredictable “human” factor into the war calculations. As I recall, the original math user was horrified by the thought of his hobby being used as an instrument of war, and the story ended with his suicide as the renewed war effort ramped up. Didn’t really buy off on the morality play aspect of the story, but I have thought of the inability to do math every time I hand a cashier eleven dollars for a $6 ticket and watch their face contort in confusion.

NeoConOne on January 27, 2008 at 1:04 am

Parent’s who want educated, marketable, and normal kids do homeschooling these days.
The way public education works these days is the kids have too much homework ’cause the teacher’s either a pedophile or uneducated themselves.
Most parent’s are homeschooling anyway, they just haven’t realized it yet.

bhparkman on January 27, 2008 at 11:18 pm

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