Monday, June 26, 2006

Thinking Out of the Box

"Right now we are raising a generation of kids in the US who cannot think inside, on top of, under, or outside the box. And unless we smarten them up soon, this generation D (Dumbest Americans) is going to compromise our country's (US) ability to compete economically somewehere down the road."
(Robert A Lutz in 'Guts')

Evolution of a Student Homework Assignment in the US
1960: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four-fifths of this price. What is his profit ?
1970: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four-fifhts of this price, or $80. What is his profit ?
1975 (new math): A logger exchanges a set L of lumber for a set M of money. The cardinality of set M is $100, and each element is worth $1. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set M. The set C of the costs of production contains 20 fewer points than set M. Represent the set C as a subset of M, and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set P of points ?
1980: A logger sells a truckload of wood for $100. His cost of production is $80, and his profit is $20. Your assigment: Underline the number 20.
1990 (outcome-based education): By cutting down beautiful forest trees, a logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living ? (Topic for class participation: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel?)

(Source: Echoes -winter 1994-, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technololgy, Terre Haute, Indiana)