Oh, Jason Rosenhouse, how you make my maths sense tingle. He’s written up a beautiful, beautiful rant about all manner of things relating to how fractions are taught in school:
And why is it that every kid, when learning how to add fractions, is told of the terrible things that occur upon failing to use the least common denominator? (Yes, FINE, here I shall allow the term, on account of “common bottom” sounding ridiculous.) What, pray tell, is the BFD? It is bad enough they must struggle with the whole idea of a common denominator, a notion invariably presented as a rule from on high possessing neither rhyme nor reason.
From where did we ever get the notion that when adding fractions it is terribly important that your sum be pre-reduced? If it bothers you to have a non-reduced fraction as your answer then just reduce it after adding. It’s OK, really.
I think my favourite bit of the whole thing is probably his screed against the abomination that is ‘mixed numbers’:
Improper fraction my ass! That is how fractions should be written. It is how they would be written if the world was the product of a just and loving God, which it is not. Instead of that perfectly clear, impossible to misinterpret fraction, we get the hellish, confusing miasma of mixed numbers. Try breaking a college student of that little habit!
*sigh* So dreamy…you’ll just have to head over and pick out your favourite bit of the rant yourself.
Filed under: Maths