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Today I spoke with Ilisa Oman from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). She has a big job there and uses math every day. I think it’s pretty cool that even though she isn’t terribly comfortable with math, she’s been able to become proficient in the math she needs to get her job done.

Can you explain what you do for a living?

NAMI Maryland is the state organization for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. My overall job is to make sure our messaging gets out there – erasing the stigma of mental illness and letting people know about all our programs. I have multiple roles in my position. I plan our major events such as our Walk, Annual Conference, Annual Meeting. In addition, I am responsible for all of our communications and outreach efforts such as creating our print and electronic newsletters, messaging through social media, and maintaining our website, flyers, webinars and press releases. And, I am responsible for some fundraising such as our annual campaign and our Walk. In addition to planning the logistics of that event, I am also responsible for soliciting sponsors and recruiting our fundraising teams/donors.

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use basic math to create my budgets when planning all of my events. An accurate budget is critical, particularly when working for a small, underfunded non-profit. I need to be cognizant of not only what things cost but also the related service charges and fees and be able to accurately calculate them. I also use math in determining our fundraising goals – percentages, where we are in relation to last year, and where we need to go.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

Calculators and Excel spreadsheets are my best friend. I wouldn’t dream of trying to create a budget without those tools.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

As I mentioned, accurate budgets are critical for any event, but particularly for a small non-profit with little money. Math helps me do my job better because it keeps me on track. Seeing the numbers and an actual budget keeps me grounded and helps me realize the limits I have to work within when planning an event.

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you?

Honestly, I am not comfortable with math. I never have been. It is probably harder for me to do this math, even with tools at my disposal, because the functioning of my organization depends on it.

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I have never been good at math. My senior year in high school, most of my friends were taking pre-calc at a minimum. However, I took a class called “Pre-College Math” which basically was math to help me on the SAT.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

The math I use is pretty basic. I just needed to become proficient in Excel.

Anything else you want to mention?

My daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability in math when she was in 2nd grade. Fortunately, in this day and age, there are so many resources out there to help people overcome such challenges, resources that I wish I had when I was young. Never be afraid to ask for help with math!

 Want to know more?  Please ask or comment below.

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For students these days, GPA is everything — so you’d better get it right! Today I interviewed Colleen Angaiak who has been an academic advisor for eight years. She helps kids calculate their GPA, set goals for the future, and much more. I found her math journey very interesting.

Can you explain what you do for a living?

I work with undergraduate students, mostly freshmen and sophomores, to help them navigate the world of higher education. My primary task is to help students choose and register for classes each semester, but because our office focuses on Alaska Native and rural Alaskan students, we provide what we call comprehensive advising. This means that we help students with financial aid, including completing the FAFSA and applying for scholarships; deciding on housing and dining options; assisting with career development, including resume writing, applying for jobs, and long-term planning; and social and personal support as well.

When do you use basic math in your job?

The primary area in which we use math is financial aid. Federal and institutional requirements for financial aid eligibility include the GPA (grade point average) and a completion rate. We help students calculate their future (or potential) GPA as well as their completion rates. This primarily involves finding an average (GPA) and a percentage (completion rate). In addition, we use very basic math (addition and subtraction) to help students determine how much they owe the university and how much payment plan payments will be (balance due divided by the number of payments). When we talk with other university departments, we are sometimes asked for simple statistics, such as the persistence rate of our students or number of graduates. Sometimes we receive that information from our department of Institutional Research, but other times we gather the data ourselves.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

I almost always use a calculator for computing GPA and completion rate as well as determining payments or balance due. This is because I want to be completely accurate when giving information to a student. In addition, I use the calculator on my computer and show the student as I do it so they can see how I reach the figure I share with them. Some GPA calculations are complicated, such as when a student is repeating a class and the new grade will replace the old one in the GPA calculation. For this and a few other instances, our university provides an online tool to determine GPA, and I do use this tool as well.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

Our office takes pride in the fact that we make every effort to answer as many of a student’s questions as possible without sending them to multiple departments. Because I have the tools to calculate GPA and completion rate, I can help a student right in my office rather than sending them off to the financial aid office. And because I understand how these numbers are calculated, I can do a better job of explaining to students what they need to do next and how long it will take them to meet the standards set by the university or their own goals.

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you?

I’m not entirely comfortable with math, but averages and percentages are calculations I’ve worked with before. My previous job included teaching GED preparation to adult students, including math, and that experience increased both my math skills and my math confidence. I am very thankful, though, to have calculators and online tools to assist me, and I do sometimes check will colleagues to determine the accuracy of the math I’ve done. I never help students with math homework or taxes, even if they beg!

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I went to a VERY small high school that offered very little math. I was part of a group of 3-5 students who were on the college prep math track, and we took Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, with Geometry and Algebra II being nearly independent study (the teacher was in another room teaching a larger group and checked in on us 2-3 times per class). I enjoyed Algebra and really disliked Geometry.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

Averages and percentages are pretty commonly used in life. Like I said, my previous experience teaching GED math helped a lot, and I didn’t need a lot of review to pick up what I need for my current position. There is a learning curve with GPA calculation, especially when dealing with special cases and predictions based on multiple possible outcomes, but I do think high school Algebra would probably be enough for anyone attempting to do the math I am required to do.

Anything else you want to mention?

When we talk to high school students who are planning to attend college, we always encourage them to take as much math as they can while in high school, and to not take long breaks between math classes. The more you use math, the less you lose it!

Interested in learning more about Colleen’s work? Ask your questions in the comments section.

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Yummy, yummy in my tummy… the old saying goes. Amy Hassler has been a pastry chef for more than 10 years, and just interviewing her made my mouth water. What a fun job she has!  I guess she’s a great example of someone who needs to know math to do her job and a great example of when math can be fun and have big rewards… like a tasty apple pie at the end!

Can you explain what you do for a living?

During my career, I’ve worked for restaurants, retail bakeries, country clubs and even grocery stores. I make breads and pastries, usually from scratch, decorating cakes and cookies, as well as making candy.

When do you use basic math in your job?

The math I use ranges from the very basic: using measurements like volume, weight, time and temperature, to more common: figuring out food costs in order to determine appropriate price points, scaling recipes, converting measurements when making substitutions, and determining how much of each item needs to be produced in order to meet demand.

Most professional pastry recipes are written by measuring ingredients by weight instead of by volume in order to make scaling more foolproof. For example, if you ask ten different people to measure 1-3/4 cup of flour, you will likely get ten different actual amounts of flour, due to the amount of air left in the measuring cups they used. Depending on whether someone packs the flour or scoops or pours into the cup, each of these results in slightly different amounts of flour. When you work in the small scale, like a home baker does, these differences might not be significant enough to notice. But when instead of making 2 dozen cookies, you’re making 40 dozen, suddenly that discrepancy can make a big difference in the consistency of the finished product. So instead of measuring by volume, we measure by weight. 12 ounces of flour is much easier to multiply by 20 on the fly than 1 3/4 cups!

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

Calculators may be found in some kitchens, but it’s not common, due to the difficulty of keeping them free of contamination while working with food, and it’s difficult to wash a calculator or sanitize it thoroughly once it’s become dirty. We use tools like thermometers and scales for our measurements, though, and it’s very important to keep those tools properly calibrated. Often times, as ovens and other cooking equipment get older, their temperature calibrations may be off, and you need to make adjustments to time or temperature settings to offset the difference. Similarly, a mis-calibrated thermometer can ruin recipes using yeast, chocolate or boiled sugar as all of these behave differently at different temperatures. If a thermometer is off by even just a single degree, it can result in chocolate candies that won’t harden properly.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

Math equals accuracy! In the food business, food costs can be the difference between a thriving business and bankruptcy. Always knowing how much it costs to produce a finished product based on the cost of the ingredients you use is necessary to make sure that the business is charging the correct price for that product. And proper measurements, including properly scaled recipes when increasing/decreasing batches, means less waste. I’ve seen enormous amounts of food go to waste because someone couldn’t bother to figure out how many trays of cookies they’ll need to fill an order properly!

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you?

I’m very comfortable with “everyday” math. When it’s used in practical applications, it’s easy for me to grasp. Theoretical math is a whole different story!

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I took an Algebra and a Geometry course in high school, and I barely passed. I was horrible at it and found it very difficult to see the usefulness of it at the time. It wasn’t until I was in college that I gained an appreciation for it.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

Luckily for me, my culinary degree included a math course designed specifically for food service. It focused on the types of tasks we see most often: scaling recipes (taking a recipe written for 2 dozen cookies and changing it to make 10 dozen, or one for 4 pies into one for just one pie), substitutions and conversions of recipe ingredients or measurements, calculating food costs, calculating supplies based on final production target, etc.
I’m pretty sure I’d have figured all of these things out on my own eventually but having the class helped and made it easier.

Anything else you want to mention?

I heard the jokes about pastry chefs a lot in culinary school, and I’ve found it to be true in the real world as well: there is an enormous personality difference between pastry chefs and the standard “culinary” chef. A chef making a soup or pasta dish, for example, can change his mind halfway through the cooking process and add ingredients, or change cooking methods (assuming the chef is skilled enough). Pastry does not work that way. Pastry chefs tend to be quite a bit more scientific and calculating because our products must be perfect before the baking process begins, or it will be ruined. A chef is able to taste his soup and add salt, but if my pie crust needs salt, I have to start over! This difference in styles means different personality types are definitely drawn to one specialty over the other.

If you have questions for Amy, post them in the comments section. In the meantime, go bake a cake… with correct measurements, of course.

Photo Credit: Canadacow via Compfight cc

Quality in our car parts is important, would’t you say? I don’tknow about you, but I don’t want to drive down the road using mis-manufactured car parts. Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Case who has been a with American Honda Motor Company for more than 15 years. He is a quality control specialist. Let’s hear about how he uses math at work.

Can you explain what you do for a living? 

I work as a quality control specialist for American Honda Motor Company, correcting supplier and packager errors. A supplier error results when we receive a notification from a supplier or dealer that a car parthas been mis-manufactured, meaning it wasn’t produced to Honda specifications, or that their is an error in the part’s packaging. My job is to investigate problems stated by dealer analysts and report my findings to them. I also give the recommendation for how to handle the mis-manufactured parts and packaging errors.

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use math when creating end-of-month reports using Excel. I also have to measure parts when investigating the claims. I compare the part to the manufacturer’s drawing detail by detail. I need to know how to find diameters and measure in millimeters as well as use calipers. At times I have to convert mm into inches.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math?  Why or why not?

I use Excel, calculators, and of course, a computer. I use a multiplication formula on my computer to do conversions.

How do you think math helps you do your job better? 

Math helps me ensure that parts are acceptable. If I didn’t have basic math skills, I wouldn’t know how to read the manufacturer’s drawing and compare it to the actual measurements of the part.

How comfortable with math do you feel?  Does this math feel different to you? 

I feel comfortable with basic math like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I’m not comfortable using algebra or more advanced math. Math doesn’t make me nervous at work or anything.

What kind of math did you take in high school?  Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

In high school, I pretty much took basic math classes. During junior and senior year, I went to a trade school (Miami Valley Career Technology Center) where my math correlated with my trade which was engine rebuilding and machining. I can’t say that I liked math, but I did feel that I was competent in it.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

I already knew how to do the math that I use at work.  Going to the trade school helped me learn how to use the tools that I use in my current position.

Anything else you want to mention?

Even though math may not be the most enjoyable subject, it is important to pay attention and understand the basics of math in order to further your skills as an adult and have a career.

Photo Credit: NiePhotography via Compfight cc

Interested in finding out more about this type of work?  Let me know any questions you have for Matt.

As a woman, I know there is nothing more life-changing than giving birth to a child. It’s a time when you most need the support of people around you. You need encouragement. I had the pleasure of interviewing Audrey Kalman for this week’s Math at Work Monday. She’s been a birth doula for twelve years so she’s been the support for countless women (and watched a lot of lives enter the world!). What does this have to do with math?  Let’s find out!

Can you explain what you do for a living?

I support women who are giving birth and their families as a birth doula. Birth doulas are non-medical support people, hired by families, who provide informational, emotional, and physical support before and during birth. I meet with families before their babies are born to find out what they’re hoping for; I help ease anxieties and point them to resources. Once a woman goes into labor—or thinks she’s in labor—she contacts me. I then join her at her home or at the hospital and stay with her and her partner until a couple hours after the baby comes. That could be a few hours… or a few days. I do everything from reassuring her (and the dad!) that everything is fine to massaging her back to talking her through a particularly painful or challenging moment. I often describe my role as a “professional sister.” I have up-to-date training and come without the “baggage” of a family member, but I bring the same kind of caring and compassion you might expect from a close relative.

When do you use basic math in your job?

Because I’m self-employed, math is part of the equation (pardon the pun) that helps me figure out how to set my rates and how many clients I need to work with to meet my income goals. For example, when recently deciding whether to raise rates, I researched living wages in my area. I then calculated how many births I would need to attend to make a living wage, looked at fees charged by doulas just starting out, and used a multiplier developed by another doula to account for my years of experience. Then there’s all the lovely arithmetic that goes into tax calculations, though I use a tax calculation program for that.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

I don’t know where I’d be without Excel spreadsheets. Since I also serve as the administrator for a small group of doulas (we back each other up), I’m responsible for maintaining a spreadsheet to track all of our clients and tallying up who owes what to whom at the end of each quarter. We serve about fifty couples each year so this can get complicated. Using a spreadsheet is the only way to keep track of everything—not only who owes what but also other information like due dates.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

I absolutely think it helps me do my job better. The hands-on work of being a doula is very intuitive, but the rest is like running any other business. I believe it’s important to be professional which includes creating contracts and invoices for which basic math is certainly required.

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you?

I’ve always felt comfortable with math. (My mother was a college professor who taught physics and mathematics.) The math I use now feels somewhat pedestrian—it’s really just glorified arithmetic. What’s interesting to me is using problem-solving concepts to help me figure out big-picture questions (as with the rate-setting example I gave above).

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I have always really enjoyed math. I had an unusual education in that I attended an early college now known as Bard College at Simon’s Rock so I took only algebra in high school. I went on to do some interesting math in college, including systems dynamics, but I didn’t pursue higher level math since I was a creative writing major. I did take statistics for my graduate degree in journalism. I think all citizens should be required to take basic statistics!

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job?

I definitely picked up my spreadsheet skills post-school since nobody was using personal computers when I went to college, but the big-picture thinking and problem-solving skills which I consider to be part of math were definitely something I honed in school and have used ever since.

Anything else you want to mention?

I want to mention another kind of “math” that is related to birth. I think of it as “intuitive math.” It’s what allows me to “feel” whether a woman’s contractions are getting closer together and longer (a sign that labor is progressing). It also allows me to help women through contractions by counting their breaths. Perhaps this doesn’t have much to do with what we typically think of as math, but part of math is all about patterns and cycles—and those are definitely relevant to the process of giving birth.

Intuitive math.  Pretty cool!  I’ve never even thought about that. I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did. If you have any questions for Audrey, please let me know.

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I’ve had such a great time this year getting to know people and their occupations on a deeper level. It’s that time of year when we reflect on what has been and dream of what will be. I’m thinking back on all the great interviews I had. A few come to mind that I’d love to share with you — just in case you missed them.

First on my mind is Mary the Non-Profit Principal. Loved her sense of humor!  She knew how to turn a serious interview about math and work into an entertaining read. She is gifted on so many levels.

Then I am recalling Louisa the Greeting Card Designer.  What a job!  I love the creativity that she unfolds into her designs.  If only some of those vibes were transmitted to me during our interview!

The next one that comes to mind is Andy the Design Director.  I guess I just have a thing for the creative types!  As I recall the math in his job is mostly done by the computer.  Just think of it though… the math that it takes to do graphic design.  The computer makes his job so much faster in so many ways.

What about Shayna the Cook Supervisor… remember her? Talk about crunching some numbers. She has to convert recipes on a daily basis as well as manage the food budget.  Because I love math, that sounds like a mighty fun job! I’m not so sure about the actually cooking part though.  With me at the stove, the food might not be so great!

Finally, I have to include Kathy the Company President who heads up a manufacturing company. As the president, she has a lot of numbers to look over including tolerances on the design prints, payroll, quality scores and much more. I love hearing about the industry that is the heart of so much in our country. I hope she inspires students to pursue STEM occupations. (Um… she’s also mom to Kelly, my virtual assistant, which is pretty darned cool!)

As 2014 draws to a close, I hope you all get some much deserved time off work and begin calculating your goals for next year.  I’m excited about next year’s Math at Work Monday interviews, but for now it feels good to focus on the holidays.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Today’s interview is with Mina Greenfield.  She has been a speech-language pathologist for sixteen years.  I enjoyed hearing not only about the math involved in her job but also about her work with children on the autism spectrum.  People like Mina are becoming needed more and more as autism is on the rise. I’m so thankful that she has dedicated herself to this important job.

Can you explain what you do for a living?

I am a clinician in a private school for students on the autism spectrum. I work on interdisciplinary teams that include classroom teachers, teaching assistants, occupational therapists, and social workers. When most people think of a “speech therapist”, they think of kids that can’t say their R’s or S’s. However, my work takes a broader look at communication. Can they understand what they hear or read? Can they express their ideas? And can they use language to communicate effectively with others?

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use basic math in my job to calculate my billable hours (each 15 minute segment counts as a unit) and to compare my “scheduled vs. actual” therapy time for the week (i.e. I was scheduled to do 23.5 hours of therapy time, but a kid was absent so my actual time was 22.5). I also use math when scoring standardized tests and interpreting test scores on incoming reports. When looking at standardized tests, usually the mean =100 and the standard deviation (SD) is 15. Therefore scores between 85 and 115 are considered to be within the average range. If I read a report on a new kiddo and I see language scores that are in the 60’s or 70’s (or lower), I will be keeping a close clinical eye on him. Percentile ranks also make frequent appearances in assessments.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

I use a widget calculator on my desktop for daily and weekly billable hours. I’ve always been good at mental math so it makes that process much quicker. When scoring standardized tests, there’s a lot of basic addition to determine a raw score, but then you use the manual to look up corresponding scores which does not require math.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

My ability to do mental math makes my job much quicker which I suppose makes me do my job more efficiently (better). I’ve been in the field long enough that I don’t have to “think” about standardized scores and what they mean. If I see a certain number, I know it indicates a certain strength or deficit.

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you?

For my purposes, I feel comfortable with math all of the time. Again, I’m very thankful I’m good at mental math.

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I took them all…Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, and AP Calculus. I also took statistics in college.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

I picked up the math at my current job pretty quickly. I think compared to other professions, it’s “basic” math. (maybe?)

Questions for Mina?  Let me know, and I’ll pass them on.

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Today’s interview is with Mary Cahalane, Principal of the non-profit company Hands-On Fundraising, LLC.  Mary knows this business well as she has been working in nonprofits for 30 years, 26 of those years as a fundraiser.  She is especially proud of this newest venture which is only 4 months old.  When we talk funds, we’re talking numbers so it wasn’t a surprise to me that math is a part of what she does.

Can you explain what you do for a living? (Be specific!)

I help nonprofit organizations improve their fundraising programs. I focus particularly on annual giving, copywriting and donor communications and improving donor retention.

When do you use basic math in your job? 

Fundraising is a funny combination of art and science. I could write the best appeal in the world, but I couldn’t judge it as such until I saw the results. We need to track donations and donor behavior. There are some measurements used all the time: Total dollars, Average gift, Response rate, Retention rate, for instance. All of those things require some math. Setting up and working with donor databases is another area. Information has to be quantified and categorized in order to be useful. How much to weigh this kind of information against that kind? What’s the hierarchy?

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math?  Why or why not?

Oh heavens, yes. I no longer trust my brain to do even simple calculations on the fly. That’s what Excel and calculators are for!

But if you don’t understand what it is you’re looking for, all the machines in the world won’t really help. So I need to have a theoretical grasp before resorting to the calculator to do the arithmetic for me.

How do you think math helps you do your job better? 

Too often, fundraising can be grounded in instinct. That can work if you’ve got very good instincts. And for the people side of fundraising, good personal skills are critical. Can you connect with people? How are your relationship-building skills? That can be very subjective.

But to measure success, it always comes down to the numbers. Did this appeal work? If your board chair loved it, but it raised very little money, then it did not work. Conversely, if it was so corny it made you cringe, but your donors responded well – it worked. It’s not subjective. It’s all about the numbers.

How comfortable with math do you feel?  Does this math feel different to you?  

I’m pretty comfortable with math at work. I’m in my element there. Outside work, I don’t feel quite as adept. I often grab the calculator to tally the checkbook.

What kind of math did you take in high school?  Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

Math was definitely NOT my subject in high school. I believe our course schedule was Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II/Trig and then if you were a glutton for punishment, you could take Calculus senior year.

I was not a glutton for punishment. Geometry wasn’t too bad. The logic was probably verbal enough for me. I still get hives at the thought of trigonometry, however.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

It’s funny. My first job out of college was so dull. I worked in the import office of a huge retail organization. This English major spent her days hovering over boring import documents and adding long lines of figures. Doing that day in and day out vastly improved my ability to add and subtract in my head. I was also a whiz at using my left hand on the calculator and my right on the phone. Unfortunately, those haven’t been highly sought after skills.

Anything else you want to mention?

Just thank you for the interview. This was fun!

It sounds like Mary sure knows the ropes when it comes to fundraising and math.  She may not have confidence in all areas of math, but she has sure honed the areas she needs to make a large impact in the non-profit world.  Have a question for Mary?  Let me know, and I’ll be glad to get in touch with her again.

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It’s been a blast going unraveling five myths about the Common Core here at Math for Grownups. And I’ve gotten a lot of terrific feedback from commenters. In case you missed any of these posts, I thought I’d put them together in one package. Enjoy — and be sure to share your thoughts in the comment sections of each post!

Myth #1: Common Core is a Curriculum

This is perhaps the most pervasive misunderstanding. In fact, the Common Core Standards are simply that: standards. In education-speak, this means they are statements of what students should know, upon completing a course or grade. Common Core does something a bit more than other sets of standards, giving a clear expectation of the depth of this understanding. >>read the rest

Myth #2: The Standards Omit Basic Math Facts

While grabbing a latte at the local Starbucks a few weeks ago, I ran into a friend of mine. She was taking a break from teaching cursive to high school students at a nearby private school’s summer program. “Kids don’t learn cursive in elementary school anymore, and so they can’t sign their names,” she explained. “Kids aren’t even required to learn their multiplication tables these days!” >>read the rest

Myth #3: The Standards Introduce Algebra Too Late

One of the reasons for Common Core is to be sure that when students graduate from high school they are ready for college and/or the job market. And these days that means having some advanced math skills under their belts. But if you read the Common Core course headings, algebra is not mentioned until high school. >>read the rest

Myth #4: The Standards Require More Testing

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the U.S. education system is standardized testing. And for good reason. There are a myriad of problems with these tests – from their links to private companies to their use as teacher evaluation tools. >>read the rest

Myth #5: Common Core is Overflowing with Fuzzy Math

First, a definition: fuzzy math is a derogatory term for an educational movement called reform math. Therefore the claim of fuzzy math isn’t so much a myth as an attempt to insult  the way that many math teachers and education researchers advocate teaching mathematics to K-12 students. >>read the rest

Know someone who could use an education on what the Common Core standards for math reallysay? Forward them this link. Or tweet about it and post on your Facebook page. 

Business is business, right? When it’s time to have those meetings and conferences, you want everything to run smoothly so you can concentrate on the task at hand.  Tina Speers has been ensuring that happens for four years as a corporate event coordinator.  She is the one making sure the projector runs like it should, and the refreshments are available on time.

Can you explain what you do for a living?

I have been an corporate event coordinator for four years. The majority of my job involves scheduling and planning events. I keep a Google calendar and plan the events and schedule rooms based on the needs of each group.  We also do virtual conferences, which requires IT skills such as basic knowledge of IP based systems.  I also stock our small cafe and make coffee on a daily basis.

When do you use basic math in your job?

Basic math is needed for the cafe.  Each item is 50 cents, or we have all day pricing.  I often need to make change (cafe is operated on an honor system).  I never use a calculator unless large groups pay per person for a certain amount of items.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

If we need to make copies for our groups they are charged per page copied.  I often use a calculator because of the amount we charge.  A black and white copy is 05 cents and a color copy is 15 cents and we usual make copies in large volumes (at least 20 pages).  I also use basic math to complete the usage and metrics for the event center. We tally our guest totals by month.  I use a calculator for this because the numbers are usually large and uneven.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

Math helps me do my job better because I am able to move fast when a guest is waiting for change.  I can’t imagine having to  use a calculator every time a guest needs change.

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you ?

I am very comfortable with this math and it does not feel different or unusual in any way.  I mean,  I learned how to count change in first grade!  In general, I do not feel very comfortable with math unless it is very basic.

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

In high school I remember taking algebra, trig, and geometry as well as some sort of review class my senior year. I think it was actually called “Senior Review.”  I have not used any advanced math skills in my job. I took Calc I in college and barely passed.  I also feel I had a lot of bad math teachers especially in my middle school years.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pickup using the skills you learned in school?

I have not used any advanced math skills in my job.

Do you have a question for Tina? An event you need to plan? Send me your question and I will forward it to her.

I sure think it would be fun to be a graphic designer.  The only problem is…I’m not sure my creativity can keep up!  Today we interview Cindy Schnell, Vice President of Graphica, to find out how math plays a role in her job.

Can you explain what you do for a living?

I manage a creative firm that specializes in strategy and branding.

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use basic math when estimating projects and providing quotes.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why, or why not?

I use a calculator to ensure accuracy.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

Providing an estimate for a project is sometimes the first contact you may have with a new client. It is critical to provide accurate pricing. You do not get a second chance to say, “Oh wait, I didn’t add that right, or I forgot to include the following charges.” Our professionalism and accuracy is imperative to our brand.

How comfortable with math do you feel?

On my own, without a calculator to validate my final numbers, I am not as confident.

Does this math feel different to you?

No, my needs in day-to-day business are basic and are very familiar to me.

What kind of math did you take in high school?

Calculus.

Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

No. I also took it in college, and it was one of my most difficult subjects. I also have a mild disability with dyslexia and numbers so numbers have always been a slight challenge.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

No, I did not have to learn any new skills to do the math at my job.

Curious to know more? If so, let me know, and I will pass them along to her.

You probably enjoy a good motion picture from time to time.  When watching, you probably do not think about how much math was used to design it.  Today, you will hear from Andy Nick who has been a Design Director  for ten years.  He makes a motion picture come to life.

Can you explain what you do for a living? 

I work for a full-service design firm and lead a team of video specialists. We are a small team, so we all do a lot of different jobs. I direct live action video shoots and handle post production and visual effects for short films, motion graphic projects and all sorts of other multimedia.

When do you use basic math in your job?

When I use Adobe After Effects (a motion graphics and visual effects program) to design and animate graphics using the old-skool cartesian coordinate system. I put design elements at a specific place using X and Y coordinates, and when I work in “3D”, I use Z space, too. Animation is just changing numbers around from their location on a graph to transparency, rotation on all 3 axes and scale. Sometimes, I write very simple mathematical code that calculates where something should be based on simple variables. It’s not calculus, but it does get a little tricky. It’s all very cool though.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math?

In my line of work, the computer does all of the number crunching. I just push and pull things around. Sometimes, I have to look carefully at the numbers to make sure that two graphics line up perfectly to each other. Other times I need an animation to look smooth, so I look at the graph that tells me how the numbers change over time. I see the results of math much more often than I worry about the actual number crunching going on.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

Understanding the basics of plotting points on a graph is just the beginning of understanding 3D graphics, but it’s a foundation that you totally have to have. It’s especially cool for me to use these tools because when a video looks really spectacular, people don’t tend to think that you came at it from a mathematical point of view. Things just end up looking “right”.

How comfortable with math do you feel? 

When you’re working with graphics, all the math is “under the hood” which means that no one will ever see any numbers. When you come out with something that looks good, people don’t understand or care how long it took you to make two things line up perfectly, look realistic and move in proportion to each other in 3D space. All of the hard work that I do with numbers is gone, and people just say “that looks real”.

What kind of math did you take in high school?

Yep, I was decent at math. I was bad at memorizing formulas, but I really understood principles well, and I was especially awesome at using a graphing calculator. (Do students still use those?) If I remember right, I made it to Algebra 2 before graduating high school. I wish I had taken a trig class. I think that’s some really cool stuff, and hardcore programmers can make some crazy things happen on screen if they know some of that stuff.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job?

I never learned more math after graduating. I only learned how to apply simple math in a way that made sense to me. I move graphics around for a living. Having an understanding of what makes motion look real is definitely due to an understanding of basic math.

Anything else you want to mention?

If you’re interested in seeing some of the motion graphics I develop, check out our latest showreel at https://vimeo.com/60230695 (password: realreel)

Check out Andy’s motion graphics he developed.  This time you will be thinking more about how math is involved in what you are watching on the screen.  If you have any questions for Andy, I can send them his way.  Feel free to check out more of his work at nickad.com.