Thursday, March 16, 2006

Student Recites 8,784 Digits of Pi - Yahoo! News

It's not politics directly, but it strikes a chord with me and effectiveness of public education. Read the article, then come back...

Student Recites 8,784 Digits of Pi - Yahoo! News

Some thoughts I had...

But his mathematical feat won the praise of others, including the math and computer science teacher who got Gaurav interested in it.

What mathematical feat? Memorizing 8K+ numbers in a row is math now? Guess this must be the NEW New Math, a step up from the finger counting my daughter had to learn in grade school. When I was in high school (the kid's 15, he better be at least a freshman), the mathematical feats I did were proving geometric theorems, deriving the quadratic formula, applying calculus to physics, and learning to triple-integrate to get the space under a curve.

My math teacher (three years in a row - Trig, Algebra II, and Calc) didn't expect us to memorize crap - we got to bring into each test one 8.5"x11" sheet of paper with anything written on it we wanted. Her idea was that memorization was for magentic storage media - knowing where to find the information we needed was more important than memorizing the information.

The Teacher must be REAL impressed with cell phones – look at all the numbers they can remember and recite back…

Gooding holds the competition every year, and said she expected students to learn about 40 digits.

What the hell? Is this kid in a school for Luddites? Even rocket launches don’t need that much precision, and I'm certain the launch engineers don't enter pi into their HP calculators manually - they rely on the calculator's or computer's software to retreive a value accurate enough for their uses.

I see this as a complete waste of taxpayer dollars to have a teacher encouraging a student to do what a computer can do faster, cheaper, and easier. As a hobby, let the kid memorize whatever he wants, impersonate any austistic savant as much as possible - but to encourage this in a classroom, to expect kids to memorize 40 digits of pi, is insane bordering on criminal.

BTW, here's what I remember of pi: 3.14159725. And that's been good enough for any calculation, computation, or graphic display I've ever done. Actually, I don't think I've ever needed the actual value of pi before - I just use Math.PI in whatever graphics/math libraries the language I'm coding in provides me. And when I'm doing math long-hand, I just write pi.

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