### How Math Was Taught in....

A fun story arrived via email a few days ago. I am translating it from Hebrew below.

A woman described her experience in a supermarket. She was buying produce worth \$158, gave to cashier two \$100 bills and was looking for \$8 in her wallet to avoid change in small bills and receive just a \$50 bill back. Young cashier hesitantly took the \$8 and was clueless why it is given to her and what to do about it. They ended up calling a supervisor who patiently explained to the cashier the math of this transaction, while she stood there with a tears in her eyes not understanding what all these people want from her.

Coming home this woman contemplated what changed have happened in math education from the 50th to nowadays that has shaped attitude of students who became immune from any criticism by the teachers. She wrote:

This is how we taught math in the Fifties:
"A farmer sold a cart of oranges for \$100. The cost of production of these oranges is 4/5 of the selling price. What is the farmer's profit?"

This is how we taught math in the Seventies:
"A farmer sold a cart of oranges for \$100. The cost of production of these oranges is 80% of the selling price. What is the farmer's profit?"

This is how we taught math in the Eighties:
"A farmer sold a cart of oranges for \$100. The cost of production of these oranges is \$80. What is the farmer's profit?"

This is how we taught math in the Nineties:
"A farmer sold a cart of oranges for \$100. The cost of production of these oranges is \$80. What is the farmer's profit?"
() \$20   () \$40  () \$60  () \$80  () \$100

This is how we taught math in the year 2000:
"A farmer sold a cart of oranges for \$100. The cost of production of these oranges is \$80. Farmer's profit is \$20. Mark below if the last statement is:
() True    () False

This how we teach math now:
"A farmer sold a cart of oranges for \$100. The cost of production of these oranges is \$80. If you know how to read mark X next to the number \$20 because this is the farmer's profit..."
() \$20 () \$40 () \$60 () \$80 () \$100

1. Oh, we have Everyday Math here. So it would be something like "Estimate how much profit the farmer made. Show your answer six different ways." Then if you gave any answer involving 20%, it would be "wrong", because you were supposed to estimate, not do the math. But if you did something with, for instance, 25 tally marks, you'd be all set.

1. Yes, thank you for reminding me! Our kids also did tally marks up to the 3rd grade (if not higher). In some cases it was also mandatory to accompany the numeric operation with a drawing of the objects. We are reversing the progress of civilization.

2. When referring to decades, I think 80s is more appropriate than 80th. But that's grammar, not math, so I won't quibble too much! :-). As for the rest of the story, yes, it's sad. On the bright side, I've seen a marked improvement in difficulty of math being taught to my younger son in 4th grade compared to what his older brother experienced 3 years prior.

3. As a math teacher, I find it insulting!

1. No, this is not your fault. You teach by the program provided to you that has changed over the years as a reflection of our parents complains, law suits, politics, and various cultural changes.

4. Apparently they didn't teach common sense to whoever wrote this because the "50th" should be the 50's and also there's no such thing as a \$200 bill... Let's get real.

5. OK, I have fixed 50th etc. to Fifties. Thank you for pointing this out. Interestingly, 50's (as anonymous above suggested) is also wrong and it should be 50s, 60s, 70s etc. See more on the grammar rules here.

Regarding the \$200 bill. This is a translation from Hebrew where there is a 200 shekel bill. Let's use two \$100 bill instead in this story.

A peculiar note about the \$200 bill from the Wikipedia:
In 2001, a local man purchased \$99 worth of merchandise at a Greensburg, Pennsylvania Fashion Bug with a \$200 bill featuring then-President George W. Bush on the front. The back featured an image of the White House with signs in the front lawn, bearing phrases such as "WE LIKE BROCCOLI" and "USA DESERVES A TAX CUT." The local man was later charged with forgery, theft by deception and receiving stolen property. A man in Danville, Kentucky passed a similar counterfeit bill at a local Dairy Queen, receiving \$198 in real change.

6. I am not really a math fan. But thank you for this great math information. Hope to read more royal essay about math.

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