— Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) December 30, 2014
Back in July 2012, the New York Times published a terrible, ignorant, anti-intellectualism-spouted-by-a-so-called-intellectual opinion piece titled Is Algebra Necessary? It was penned by Andrew Hacker, an emeritus professor of political science (that should be your first warning) at Queens College, City University of New York. His thesis was that making math mandatory reduces our talent pool by discouraging “otherwise talented students who are impeded by algebra, to say nothing of calculus and trigonometry.” The horror!
To their credit, the Times published a couple of follow-up pieces soon afterward: In Defense of Algebra and N Ways to Apply Algebra to the New York Times. However, they only truly atoned for their math sins a couple of days ago in a piece about how much money the movie The Interview made:
While Sony didn’t say how much of the $15 million made came from rentals and sales, anyone with eighth-grade algebra would realize that there’s enough information to figure it out. In these two paragraphs, you have two variables and two linear equations, which means you don’t need Sony to tell you how much of that $15 million came from sales and how much came from rentals.
To make your life easier, I’ve done the math for you:
So to answer the New York Times’ question, “Is algebra necessary?”, the answer is “Yes, and more often than you might think.”