Professor: Fractions should be scrapped

Jan 24, 2008 Full story: www.usatoday.com 78

A few years ago, Dennis DeTurck, an award-winning professor of mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, stood at an outdoor podium on campus and proclaimed, "Down with fractions!"

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Sam

Houston, TX

#1 Jan 24, 2008
Is he trying to start a pro-Metric movement? Godspeed!
Ron

United States

#2 Jan 24, 2008
Integrate ds/cabin. You get "Log Cabin". Oh, so funny (not!)

Since: May 07

Indianapolis, IN

#3 Jan 24, 2008
Article stated "Not only does he favor the teaching of decimals over fractions to elementary school students, he's also taking on long division, the calculation of square roots and by-hand multiplication of long numbers."

I disagree with his approach. Sure, not many people use long division, calculate square roots by hand, etc. However, school is supposed to be about teaching children problem solving skills and logical thinking. Having children perform these calculations by hand helps with that. Of course, if I were of school age right now, I'd be giving this guy a big high-five!

Besides... saying something is "half-assed" just sounds better than saying something is "0.5-assed".
Martin

Brooklyn, NY

#4 Jan 24, 2008
Oh MaaaaaN!
And I've ALMOST completed my new fraction flash-card patent application.
Rudolph

Fairport, NY

#5 Jan 24, 2008
"... stood at an outdoor podium on campus and proclaimed, "Down with fractions!" Why didn't he stand ON the podium? Does the author have "podium" confused with "lecturn"? Maybe he had a teacher who didn't bother with English.
Claude Bogardus

Auburn Hills, MI

#6 Jan 24, 2008
After this astute professor agrees to proclaim PI an integer, I shall join his Crusade For Mathematics Simplification. Of course, I shall continue my stenuous striving to reduce Infinity to a manageable mass and size, thereby insuring the Perpetual Sanctity Of The Cosmos.
Alabaster Bilgepump

United States

#7 Jan 24, 2008
Practically all design and calculation I do are based on decimal. Fractions have to be reduced to their decimal equivalent in order to feed some useful numerics into something that digital whatever will understand. Fractions in CNC? Has anyone seen one that understands fractions? 1/2 assed? No, Matt has it down. It is 0.5 assed.
This, Dear Children, is evolution.
Cookie

Troy, MO

#8 Jan 24, 2008
If this guy had half a brain (oh wait, he doesn't believe in halves...) he'd realize that memorizing addition and subtraction are the only way to get through life. Ever tried to divide a lunch check with someone who was a failure at math?
Jamie

Altoona, FL

#9 Jan 24, 2008
He "favors teaching decimels over fractions"? The hell?

What kind of school does he think kids go to that doens't teach decimels ALONGSIDE fractions?

Besides of which, for a math prof, he sure seems to forget that there are things that can only be truly accurately expressed as a fraction, as the division into a decimel would make them go on literallly forever (one third, for instance...).

Not to mention, our language has been built around fractions for about as long as it's existed - we speak of "halves" and "quarters", "tenths", "thirds", face it, we use fractions as part of our common mathematical language, especially when it comes to for instance, cooking, carpentry, picure framing, etc.- while you could certainly convert eighths of an inch into decimels, the same can't be said for a third of a cup of sugar. By all means, encourage using the metric system more - if nothing else, I kind of always wished I had better learned to convert to and from it and it makes sense - but you can't say "let's not teach fractions anymore AT ALL", with a straight face, and convince me you are still a sane person.

You want to know why we teach fractions? Because it's useful in common contexts! Duh.
Spring is BACK

Wickliffe, KY

#10 Jan 24, 2008
Matt from Akron wrote:
Article stated "Not only does he favor the teaching of decimals over fractions to elementary school students, he's also taking on long division, the calculation of square roots and by-hand multiplication of long numbers."
I disagree with his approach. Sure, not many people use long division, calculate square roots by hand, etc. However, school is supposed to be about teaching children problem solving skills and logical thinking. Having children perform these calculations by hand helps with that. Of course, if I were of school age right now, I'd be giving this guy a big high-five!
Besides... saying something is "half-assed" just sounds better than saying something is "0.5-assed".
I agree with you. I was not that good at math (accurate, but not fast). But it helped much in the overall learning process.

I very much disagree that "the study of fractions should be delayed until it can be understood, perhaps after a student learns calculus." Fractions are NOT harder than calculus. Except maybe for this Professor.

Besides, fractions are a very useful concept, early in life, as well as later. Time, in particular is divided into "quarters" and "halves". My daughter would be mystified, and my wife would think I was turning into Mr. Spock, if I was to say "Let's make some popcorn after the 1st 0.25 of the game"! Percentages are just as silly: "Oh, hon, just give me another 67% glass of juice."
Jamie

Altoona, FL

#11 Jan 24, 2008
I also think the idea that long division should be kept to post-Calculas students bizarre. I use long division several times a week, sometimes several times a day! And I wouldn't be able to do it as easily today if I hadn't learned it in third grade!
Spring is BACK

Wickliffe, KY

#12 Jan 24, 2008
Alabaster Bilgepump wrote:
Practically all design and calculation I do are based on decimal. Fractions have to be reduced to their decimal equivalent in order to feed some useful numerics into something that digital whatever will understand. Fractions in CNC? Has anyone seen one that understands fractions? 1/2 assed? No, Matt has it down. It is 0.5 assed.
This, Dear Children, is evolution.
True, but in audio engineering, for example, a very useful concept is that of "half power". Sure, if I want to plug that into a simulation, it becomes 0.50, but if I just want to think about it usefully, it is "half". Let's get kids to where they understand basic ideas and concepts 1st, THEN teach 'em to run digital simulations.
Spring is BACK

Wickliffe, KY

#13 Jan 24, 2008
Jamie wrote:
You want to know why we teach fractions? Because it's useful in common contexts! Duh.
Nail. Hammer. Bang!
Mee

United States

#14 Jan 24, 2008
1/2-baked idea.(Is his glass .5 of 1, or .5 of 0?)
Steve

United States

#15 Jan 24, 2008
Yeah, learn about fractions after taking calculus?

How can a moron become a professor of mathematics?
jww

Rancho Cucamonga, CA

#16 Jan 24, 2008
Both fractions and 'decimals' would be easier if we counted by twelves instead of tens. Dozens have been used since humans learned to count, and for good reason: 12 can be evenly divided by 2,3,4 and 6 (10 only by 2 and 5), and people have an intuitive grasp of halves, thirds and quarters.

We already use twelves when telling time and measuring circles and angles. All we need is to invent two new symbols for ten and eleven (such as X and E), then 10 would mean twelve, 11 thirteen and so on. Fractions and decimals would be on speaking terms, with 1/2 = 0.6, 1/3 = 0.4, 1/4 = 0.3, 2/3 = 0.8, 3/4 = 0.9, all exactly. Even the eights would only require two digits, as in 1/8 = 0.16. The relationship between fractions and 'dozenals' would be much more obvious and make computation and measurement that much easier.

But, like the World Calendar or even the metric system in the U.S., this makes entirely too much sense to ever be adopted by tradition-enslaved humanity. Maybe after another few million years of evolution...
The Old Coach

Austin, TX

#17 Jan 24, 2008
But pie are not square! Pie are round, cornbread are square!

Justin Wilson
Spring is BACK

Wickliffe, KY

#18 Jan 24, 2008
Mee wrote:
1/2-baked idea.(Is his glass .5 of 1, or .5 of 0?)
That's an easy one!.5 of 0 = 0! Heeheehee....
Shaft-O Eng

United States

#19 Jan 24, 2008
I'll bet the older carpenters are loving this ?....both construction and music...
JEANNIE

Brooklyn, NY

#20 Jan 24, 2008
jww wrote:
Both fractions and 'decimals' would be easier if we counted by twelves instead of tens. Dozens have been used since humans learned to count, and for good reason: 12 can be evenly divided by 2,3,4 and 6 (10 only by 2 and 5), and people have an intuitive grasp of halves, thirds and quarters.
We already use twelves when telling time and measuring circles and angles. All we need is to invent two new symbols for ten and eleven (such as X and E), then 10 would mean twelve, 11 thirteen and so on. Fractions and decimals would be on speaking terms, with 1/2 = 0.6, 1/3 = 0.4, 1/4 = 0.3, 2/3 = 0.8, 3/4 = 0.9, all exactly. Even the eights would only require two digits, as in 1/8 = 0.16. The relationship between fractions and 'dozenals' would be much more obvious and make computation and measurement that much easier.
But, like the World Calendar or even the metric system in the U.S., this makes entirely too much sense to ever be adopted by tradition-enslaved humanity. Maybe after another few million years of evolution...
We have ten fingers and ten toes. That is what started the system of 10s.

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