Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I'm teaching the dread chapter 9 again. In this book chapter 9 is polynomials. Naked, unadorned polynomials without an equals sign. I struggle to make polynomials relevant more than any other math, because really (and don't tell my students this) it sort of isn't relevant. All of the polynomials in chapter 9 are really just a test of your dexterity at symbol manipulation.

Watch me distribute across these flaming parentheses! Oooh and aaah as I undo it with a little greatest common factoring. See me divide a polynomial by a monomial. Shiver as I disobey the very laws of physics and conservation of matter by adding two trinomials together to get a binomial!

Sometimes our book in an attempt to make polynomials "real" for the kids will throw in a story problem. Unfortunately the story problems are total bunk and go something like this: "Mt. Kilimanjaro is (5x2 + 4x + 9) meters tall. Mt. Everest is (11x2 + 8x - 15) meters tall. How much taller than Mt. Kilimanjaro is Mt. Everest? How tall are the two mountains stacked on top of each other?" Anyway, I skip these pathetic attempts at relevance, and I'm left with nothing. Nothing but a bunch of rigid rules about symbol manipulation and a feeble attempt at enthusiasm...

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