There is a lot of talk nowadays about the poor mathematics preparation our students have. As a mathematics professor, I will agree with this. Students coming out of high school do not understand that mathematics is a collection of principles that the students must master. Mathematics is critical for rational thinking. If Americans are unable to think rationally, our democracy will fail, and we will become a dictatorship like many other countries.
Here is an example. Students need to understand what insurance means. For the benefit of the reader, insurance is a system where a group of people pool money to cover large expenses that members of the group may occur. The annual payments to the insurance company must cover administrative costs and payments for expenses. The various insurance companies know from many decades of experience how to calculate the statistics to that the payments will indeed cover the costs. Now when the government, under President Obama’s leadership, is attempting to require medical insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions without increasing the payments, we all must understand that this is mathematical nonsense. Such statements are simply false. Anyone who makes such false statements, someone who otherwise is educated and knowledgeable, is someone who is out to deceive.
Educated people have the responsibility to educate others who do not know. Media pundits have the obligation to explain the mathematical nature of insurance, even if in so doing they will contradict the President of the United States, or the management of the broadcasting company where they work. If they are fired for speaking out, they should consider it as a brave act, similar to a soldier getting injured or killed fighting for our country.
When Congressman B. Frank insisted that banks give mortgages to poor people at the same rate as comfortable clients, he is talking mathematical nonsense. Unfortunately, no one pointed out the nonsense, with the result that the banks went along with this stupidity and then went broke. Because of national silence, Frank continues to be elected. We must be blunt, and speak out saying a politician who speaks mathematical nonsense is a liar and unfit to be elected.
I explain this to my university students. We must all do what we can.
When we deal with mathematics, there cannot be two sides. If the math is not valid, it is not valid. If this makes your entire position wrong, then your entire position is wrong.
When my students say wrong things, I do two things. First, I tell them the correct thing, pointing out their error. Second, I explain to them the faulty reasoning that led to the error. People tend to forget this second step.
The future of our country is at stake. Give me truth or give me death must be our motto. We must all speak the truth, even at the cost of becoming unemployed.
The mathematics of insurance is simple enough for high school students to understand. High school teachers must talk about it, in light of current events in our nation’s capital.