A friend of mine at work moved to another building and another job. He left a cabinet full of old textbooks related to engineering and math. He told me to go through the books and take what I wanted and donate the rest. He’s been gone a year and I finally got around to going through his books.


Two shelves of books and only one that I had any interest in – an algebra textbook from the mid 1950’s. My friend had received it from a relative who was a school teacher. She thought he might enjoy looking through it.


I enjoy looking at old math textbooks for mainly one reason – math doesn’t change. “It” has been the same since the beginning of time and I sincerely believe that “it” can prove a lot of things.


What does change? Examples and questions mainly… There was no internet and no cell phones, so those types of questions won’t be found in a 1950’s textbook: You know, “Bob has two cell phone options, which is the better deal?”


There were a lot of “farmer questions,” and to be honest there are still a few good ones out there in books today. You know the ones with how much fencing or acres or cows or land deals. All good examples. I’m scared that we have lost quite a few farmers since the 1950’s, I guess a lot of farms now are “mega farms” owned by companies. I’m really not sure, but I know a true farmer has to be pretty sharp with their numbers and also be able to “work from can to can’t” as my Daddy used to say.


The one thing that kind of interested me was that this book was covering a lot of stuff and I mean a lot. Far more than what I see covered in today’s similar classes. This is just my opinion and I could be very wrong about what they are teaching in high schools today. This was a high school algebra textbook and it covered a lot of areas that are now covered in some lower level college math classes.


Maybe they were just getting more bang for the buck, putting as much information as they could in the book.


I did find where it was a “Second Year Algebra” text, which might explain the additional depth of the topic in the book.


There are folks who want to do away with things like algebra in high school and teach basic consumer math instead. To be honest, in my opinion if you are doing a pretty good job teaching algebra, you can’t help but throw a lot of consumer math in there. You know the farmer has to finance some things, plan for extra cows or crops and save money for bad weather or bad politicians.


Things aren’t always good or bad, they have a mathematical function. This is the opinion of some oddball math people (like me).


That is why math and math books and algebra and calculus and statistics are so “reliable.’ They are always there for you. You might be a person or know a person who says, “I will never use math in my job.” I enjoy debunking those statements. I know that it is true that all levels of mathematics do not need to be mastered by all professions, but knowing the basics is critically important for just about every occupation.


Ok, I have given my little math sermon. I feel like it is my job to “preach a little math” from time to time in hopes of inspiring young (and old) to keep enjoying the subject that never changes. I often stop in the middle of lecture and tell my students, “What I just said is your daddy lecture for the day.” Today, I noted to them that with all the sickness going around that they needed to be washing their hands all day long…


They looked at me a little funny. These students were in the 18-20 range and probably thought it wasn’t my business to preach to them on cleanliness and germs, but I did anyway.


It was somewhat selfish on my part, because I do not want to get sick.


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