Are We a Nation of Media-Controlled ‘Math Idiots’?


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:

2 thoughts on “Are We a Nation of Media-Controlled ‘Math Idiots’?

  1. Donna Kridelbaugh, MS says:

    Comment from Ken B. on the AAAS LinkedIn Group:
    “We are most likely a nation of media-controlled idiots (period). It has been like this since my first childhood memories. But don’t pick on poor old Al, let’s pick on the corporate people who actually make the philosophies of the media. Keep up your good work Donna!”

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