Archive for June 25th, 2004

25th June
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, June 25, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

Hooray for new math, New-hoo-hoo-math, It won’t do you a bit of good to review math. It’s so simple, So very simple, That only a child can do it! o sang the satirist (and college mathematics professor) Tom Lehrer.The new math he was referring to was the kind of math taught to me at J.H.S. 79 in the Bronx by my seventh-grade math teacher, Helen Kaufman.

There was no attempt to salvage our selfesteem other than the satisfaction we got from getting exactly the right answer. Mrs. Kaufman stretched our thinking about numbers by teaching us to solve problems in base-eight, rather than the familiar base-10 or decimal system. Mr. Lehrer offers a fine definition of this system: “Base eight is just like base ten really — if you’re missing two fingers.”
Most of us got it, without sacrificing any body parts. (more…)