The lyrics from punk rock band Green Day, “Don’t want to be an American idiot, one nation controlled by the media!” strike a deep ‘geometric’ chord after NBC’s Today show aired this year on National Pi Day. Pi Day is celebrated on 3/14 by math enthusiasts in honor of the value of pi (~3.141592…), which represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Of course, Pi Day activities involve consuming lots of pi(e) with a little math thrown in there, too!
During this year’s Pi Day, I caught part of the Today Show where cast members participated in a blind taste testing of assorted pies, and then disappointingly, that was it for the Pi Day festivities–no math involved! Even more ‘distasteful’, famed weatherman Al Roker justified the lack of a math lesson on the episode because he and the cast were “all math idiots”. Really, Al, so a basic understanding of math is not needed to interpret the weather report? Although Al Roker majored in communications instead of meteorology, he is a long-time member of the American Meteorological Society, an advocate for the use of graphic arts in weather reporting and a weather reporter for over three decades; thus, he is well aware of the need for math skills in this discipline–from conversion of weather units to creating weather maps.
It is time for the media to stop propagating a fear of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. Math anxiety — a behavior learned from societal attitudes — already represents a real threat to recruiting students to STEM areas and creating a well-educated general population. The media needs to step up and serve as positive, intelligent role models for their audience. If we as a society promote math as an integral part of every day life then maybe we would be a nation with a balanced-budget government, less consumer debt and a top global ranking in math scores!
Links to Fun Math Education Sites: