Monday, September 8, 2014

Quote of the Day (Stephen Leacock, on Those Pesky High School Math Word Problems)

“The occupations of A, B, and C are many and varied. In the older arithmetics they contented themselves with doing ‘a certain piece of work.’ This statement of the case, however, was found too sly and mysterious, or possibly lacking in romantic charm. It became the fashion to define the job more clearly and to set them at walking matches, ditch-digging, regattas, and piling cord wood. At times, they became commercial and entered into partnership, having with their old mystery a ‘certain’ capital. Above all they revel in motion. When they tire of walking-matches--A rides on horseback, or borrows a bicycle and competes with his weaker-minded associates on foot. Now they race on locomotives; now they row; or again they become historical and engage stage-coaches; or at times they are aquatic and swim. If their occupation is actual work they prefer to pump water into cisterns, two of which leak through holes in the bottom and one of which is water-tight. A, of course, has the good one; he also takes the bicycle, and the best locomotive, and the right of swimming with the current. Whatever they do they put money on it, being all three sports. A always wins.”—Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock (1869-1944), “A, B, and C—The Human Element in Mathematics,” Literary Lapses (1910)

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