Abstruse Goose: Math Doesn’t Suck


AG’s little mouseover says, “. . .except algebraic geometry.  Algebraic geometry pretty much sucks.”  I’m going to have to take his word for it, I’m profoundly innumerate.  Moreover, if AG hadn’t added the caption, I would have said this cartoon was about physics.  Physics is the science, the knowledge; math is just the language — or at least that’s what physicists tell me.  Could physicists be wrong?

Also:  AG’s hidden title for this cartoon is “my favorite Danica,” and after some determined googling, I discovered Danica McKellar and her book about math written to encourage teenaged girls:  when girls are children, their math scores are pretty much the same as boys’; but when girls become teens, their scores lag behind.  The subject attracts considerable scholarly literature but I haven’t the heart to read it.  I’ll make it up instead.

Assume the difference is socially determined, and do a zillion questionnaires and interviews on social attitude and teenaged self-perception.  Are you going to find that society thinks girls should be good at math but surprise! they’re bad?  No, you won’t because society thinks girls are bad at math.  You can’t edit the girls out of the society.

Assume the difference is innate and chart the rise with time of some hormone in girls that disrupts the math-able neural circuits established in childhood — or maybe some other hormone that encourages math-able neural circuits, then falls with time.  Given the complexities of  relationships between hormones, neural circuits, and abilities, I’d say it sounds impossible; but you should ask a neurologist.

If you can’t test it, it ain’t science.  And those are my thoughts on this subject.  Feel free to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.


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Categorized in: Abstruse Goose, Education, Mind/Brain, Physics

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7 thoughts on “Abstruse Goose: Math Doesn’t Suck

  1. Raging menopausal hormones inducing internal heatwave, coupled with single-digit outdoor temperature and lack of indoor heating and…sorry, was there a question about math?
    Math sucks!

  2. Oh my dear, I do sympathize. No, no question about math that you need to consider.

  3. This reminds me of the fact that I would love to go to school for meteorology, but am discouraged by the fact that nearly everything I read about going to school for meteorology says, “Beware… meteorology is heavy on physics and calculus.” And my brain dies a little and I go back to my old job.

  4. I join Abstruse Goose in encouraging you mightily to go to meteorology school regardless. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t know you can’t do it. That’s my motto and I’m sticking to it.

  5. Maryann, I want to heartily second what my sister said. She is, as she says, “profoundly innumerate”, but decided she wanted to be a science writer some time ago and has found a way to do that without the math. And she is very happy with her choice.

  6. Hysterical. Better than xkcd?

    I never thought math sucked. These days i see math as the 2nd of the three great tools, after language. Science is 3rd. It builds on language and math.

    I have 2 sons named ADHD and ADD. It’s hard to imagine how low the girls must have to sink to trail them in math. But my wife has thought she’s bad at math, and did not pursue career opportunities because of it. As we help ADHD and ADD with their math, it’s become clear just how not-bad she is at it.

    What i mean by “math never sucked” is that, as an adult, i heard a reference to “when learning was cruel”, and i was shocked. When ADHD finally got to the point of reading for enjoyment (in 3rd grade), he went from 5th percentile to 100% on the MEAP tests for reading comprehension by the next year. That’s not 100th percentile. He finished the test and got everything right. He entered untested territory. So these days, i’m trying to get him to “math for enjoyment”. He’ll still be ADHD, but at least life won’t suck. After doing a few simple experiments, it turns out he likes science.

  7. I like AG better than xkcd too — he’s more human, though maybe it’s just the blue cap.

    And yay for a kid finding he likes science!

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