Here’s something I don’t do very often: a pet-peeve blog. Let’s do this.
You know what really grinds my gears? Those math polls on Facebook. You know the ones like
People that fancy themselves good at math answer these and then proceed to argue in the comments about the correctness of their response. What these people fail to realize is that there is no correct answer. “But, order of operations! Surely PEMDAS says you multiply before you add!”
Order of operations is just a convention we’ve adopted to approach problems like this in a standard way. For that matter, the operations themselves are merely convention. Addition and multiplication (and their inverses subtraction and division) are the standard arithmetic operations, but there is nothing fundamental about them. They are merely adopted as the basic operations.
I could just as easily create a new operation, let’s call it @. So A@B would be defined as the Ath prime number after B. For example, 3@5=13.
What would 1+1+1+1@5+1 be then?
I haven’t defined a priority for @ing yet. Any logical answer is valid. Most illogical ones too.
Those polls emphasize the poor math pedagogy in our schools. They are not creative nor snarky. Yet many “smart” people consider those to be interesting math questions. But they are, in fact, trivial. Not worth contemplating deeply, and definitely not worth passionate discussion.
For really interesting math questions, check out Vi Hart.
So, Facebook math polls: Don’t.
And that’s how Sue Cs it.
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