Jun 03

Last week I purchased a cheeseburger at McDonalds for $1.58.  I handed $2.08 to the young woman behind the counter.  She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies, while staring blankly at her register.  I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me back two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help.  While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she started crying in frustration.  Why do I tell you this?  Because of the evolution in teaching math in the United States over the past six decades:

Teaching Math in 1959

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 1969

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 1979

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.  His cost of production is $80.  Did he make a profit?

Teaching Math in 1989

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 1999

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands.  He does this so he can make a profit of $20.  What do you think of his way of making a living?  Topic for class participation after answering the question:  How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger destroyed their homes?  (There are no wrong answers, and if you feel like crying, it’s OK.)

Teaching Math in 2009

Un maderero vende un camión cargado de madera por $100.  Su coste de producción es de $80.  ¿Se obtienen beneficios?

More Funny Stuff

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • DotNetKicks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Slashdot
  • Technorati
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Print
  • email

Article published on June 3, 2009

8 Responses to “The Evolution of Teaching Math in America: 1959-2009”

  1. Laura Says:

    I can’t tell you how many times that happens to me, but it’s so much fun to confuse them 🙂

  2. Jay Says:

    Oh…so, SO true. I noticed this in the mid-80’s. Truly sad. If you really want to see this in action, get your ‘fee’ (say…$2.35) and then hand them a $5.00. The moment they pop in the amount in the register, say “Wait!” and then give them coin. (Even giving them the EXACT amount of change could potentially give them a headache!)

    >>> Jay

  3. Anthony Says:

    @Jay – That’s hillarious. I’ve done that a few times. Unfortunetly, I was a victim to the (Guessing) 1985 teaching styles. Luckily, I had some common sense and read some older books.

  4. The Irishman Says:

    This is so true. I “dugg” the article. Everyone should read this (although the state of teaching reading is almost as bad as teaching math – so there are fewer ‘readers’ out there now).

  5. Rafael Karst Says:

    Incredible, i’m from brazil, here the same s*** happens… huaehuaehuaehuae how can this be possible?! two f***ing different countries…

    the same ‘bla bla bla’ of teaching…

    really i didn’t think this could be possible…

    haha =]

  6. bruno Says:

    I don’t understand “Teaching Math in 2009”. I’m from Uruguay and I don’t know the situation of the USA right now. Are you saying that american kids are reading spanish books or that schools are full of inmigrants? I just don’t get it.

  7. Steven Says:


    People with Spanish as their first language, or at least their parent’s first language, is currently the fastest growing portion of the US population. Various estimates indicate that this segment will be 30% of the US population by 2050, and that Non-Hispanic whites will make up less than half of the total population.

    This is a sore point for many whites in the US.

    So, anyway, back to the last part of the joke, while I personally don’t see it as adding much value (I much prefer other punchlines than that one), it’s trying to highlight how much the education system is changing from that experienced by the typical American that grew up in the 1950s.

    Hope that helps.

  8. JC Says:

    The reason for the Spanish in 2009 punchline is to underscore the frustration of teaching math in modern American classrooms. Since the vast majority of teachers in the US are English speaking, they are now finding themselves having to teach ESL learners who oftentimes cannot understand a single word that they are saying. If you thought it was difficult to teach algebra to an adolescent, try teaching it to an adolescent who cannot comprehend a single word that you are saying. That’s the point being made there.

Leave a Reply