Any student of The Theory of Everything must master a whole new set of mathematical disciplines.

The most important of these was first recognized in the 1950's by Walt Kelly, creator of the cartoon Pogo who, with inspiration taken from The New Math debacle of the early post-Sputnik years, led us into a study of The After Math which describes what's left after everything else has been destroyed. The answer to every calculation is zero.

Later theoretical work by researchers who chose to remain anonymous (for obvious reasons) led to the following extremely important result, The Apathy Integral.

I have personally found this equation especially useful with regard to recently reported and reported and reported and reported and ......activities of particular persons by the names of Kardashian, Aniston, Bieber, Sheen, Berry ....... Well, you get the idea.

Of course, as with any new field of study, some analysts are believed to have erred from time to time.

Still, I'm sure we can find it in our hearts to be forgiving and appreciative of their pioneering efforts.

The debacle of the New Math was actually that children were expected to cipher in any base, not just in base ten. Each base had its own multiplication table which hugely magnfied the memorization load. Also, since Arabic numerals were used in each base, there were lingustic problems.

In base ten, forty-two for example was just that, "forty two". However, in base seven, you had to say "forty-two-base-seven" which wasn't really forty-two at all.

Hysteria and panic over the launching of Sputnik and a need to "beat the Russians" ruined the mathematical skills of a whole generation.

Posted by: John Dunn | July 24, 2012 at 08:23 AM

Basically the new math was a new way of teaching the old math. We were actually explaining how numbers worked in the most basic way and how the language of math was constructed. Set theory, place value, how we added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided, etc. The point of it was to understand (practicing thinking and reasoning required) the math instead of just memorizing tables. The first problem of the new math was to have the teachers learn it first (not just memorize it).

Posted by: Howard Edelman | July 26, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Not being required to do memorization of the times ten table is exactly what did in the students' math skills. Students in only third grade were in no way ready to be introduced to set theory, number bases, etal.

My mother taught seventh and eighth grade math when I was still in fourth grade. She was at her wits end with those students who had not been drilled with the multiplication table when younger. They were virtually helpless to do the required work of their own grade levels.

Result: I got multipllication table drill in class and also at home. Lots of it!! I ended up very much better off for that.

Posted by: John Dunn | July 27, 2012 at 09:09 AM