The Loneliest Monk – audio

##### Working Class Calculus

No, Really. I know many of us have memories of asking math instructors, ‘When will I ever use math?’ Well, the truth is putting on your pants in the morning is math. As many of you may have noticed, I am not an exceptional visual artist, so I will use a word problem to ‘prove’ that we all use math daily.

A pair of pants traveling at a speed of 32 centimeters every half second is moving to meet your foot from 75 centimeters above ground and 18 centimeters away from your waist. If, because of a jay walking accident, you are only able to raise your right foot 18 centimeters off of the ground, at what point after the pants have started moving should you raise your foot to still look somewhat smooth to the nurse watching? *

See? Math! Given the ‘proof’ that everyone has the ability to process math non-verbally, since we all know how to put on pants, why is so much importance placed on verbal and written expression through testing? The instruction of math provides a clue. The fact that what Antonio Gramsci terms as ‘normative language,’ is used to instruct math seems to create an unfortunate bias against some cultures and economic levels in learning the languages of numerical expression. The question arises then, has the instruction of math remained unchanged because normative ‘language is the product of conflict, including cultural and political struggle?’ Since we all have the ability to perform math and even teach math by playing catch with our children, why are some expressions of math valued more than others? We have already seen that being able to speak about math is better than not, in regards to financial rewards. Yet non verbal math is demanded in manufacturing, in kitchens, and on the sports field. In a way (cough) it’s fair, since reimbursement for working class calculus is directly related to how well you calculate under pressure.

*Not a real math problem. The numbers are made up. The answer is sit on the bed.