# Reading the Comics, November 11, 2017: Pictured Comics Edition

And now the other half of last week’s comic strips. It was unusually rich in comics that come from Comics Kingdom or Creators.com, which have limited windows of access and therefore make me feel confident I should include the strips so my comments make any sense.

Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott’s Baby Blues for the 9th mentions mathematics homework as a resolutely rage-inducing topic. It’s mathematics homework, obviously, or else it wouldn’t be mentioned around here. And even more specifically it’s Common Core mathematics homework. So it always is with attempts to teach subjects better. Especially mathematics, given how little confidence people have in their own mastery. I can’t blame parents for supposing any change to be just malice.

Bill Amend’s FoxTrot Classics for the 9th is about random numbers. As Jason says, it is hard to generate random numbers. Random numbers are a resource. Having a good source of them makes a lot of computation work. But they’re hard to make. It seems to be a contradiction to create random numbers by an algorithm. There’s reasons we accept pseudorandom numbers, or find quasirandom numbers. This strip originally ran the 16th of November, 2006.

Chris Browne’s Hagar the Horrible for the 10th is about the numerous. There’s different kinds of limits. There’s the greatest number of things we can count in an instant. There’s a limit to how long a string of digits or symbols we can remember. There’s the biggest number of things we can visualize. And “visualize” is a slippery concept. I think I have a pretty good idea what we mean when we say “a thousand” of something. I could calculate how long it took me to do something a thousand times, or to write a thousand of something. I know that it was at about a thousand words that, last A To Z sequence, I got to feeling I should wrap up any particular essay. But did I see any particular difference between word 999 and word 1,000? No; what I really knew was “about enough paragraphs” and maybe “fills just over two screens in my text editor”. So do I know what a thousand is? Anyway, we all have our limits, acknowledge them or not.

Henry Scarpelli and Craig Boldman’s Archie rerun for the 17th is about Moose’s struggle with mathematics. Just writing “more or less” doesn’t fix an erroneous answer, true. But error margins, and estimates of where an answer should be, can be good mathematics. (Part of the Common Core that many parents struggle with is making the estimate of an answer the first step, and a refined answer later. Based on what I see crossing social media, this really offends former engineering majors who miss the value in having an expected approximate answer.) It’s part of how we define limits, and derivatives, and integrals, and all of calculus. But it’s in a more precise way than Moose tries to do.

Ted Shearer’s Quincy for the 18th of September, 1978 is a story-problem joke. Some of these aren’t complicated strips.

## Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

## 6 thoughts on “Reading the Comics, November 11, 2017: Pictured Comics Edition”

1. Ugh, Common Core makes me SO GLAD every day that I’m a substitute teacher. It’s insane.

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1. Yeah? I’m curious about what it’s like in actual normal teaching. My only real experience with Common Core is now and then some loosely connected relative or friend will demand I agree that some worksheet or other is the stupidest possible way to do a problem. And I disappoint them regularly. My gut reaction usually is that it might involve a lot of overhead and take more steps than needed to (say) subtract 16 from 35. But I’m rarely bothered by taking more steps than absolutely needed, and can usually see where the overhead could make later work easier.

But I also haven’t got any children if you don’t count our pet rabbit (and I don’t). And I never have to teach the stuff except when a parent I loosely know demands to know how anyone could possibly multiply like that.

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1. Yeah I always have weird shortcuts with math that the kids love…or different approaches…(when I sub). The books they have…it seems like it makes it harder to learn math…at least from this dyscalculia’s person’s perspective.

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1. Well, shortcuts are fun, especially since they give the feeling of getting away with something. I think they can be dangerous to teach, though, since it’s easy for someone learning to make a bad generalization. But they’re also so addictive; see a good trick and it’s almost impossible not to commit to memory.

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2. I wouldn’t be an actual teacher in a standardized ed school with common core–not for all the money in the world…and I’m desperately broke, and a hard worker/good work ethic.

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1. I can’t usefully dispute someone’s preferences, of course. I just have not encountered any Common Core mathematics presentations that have struck me as obviously misguided. But again, I haven’t got experience teaching the stuff; I just get sometimes presented with someone being all growly that the mathematics worksheet doesn’t look like what someone a couple years younger than me [*] did when they were a kid.

[*] I was just the right age to get the later waves of the New Math, an approach that worked really well for me. I grant that background, and the aspects of my personality that made me a good match for that, might make me a good match for Common Core-based approaches.

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