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    Volume 9 Issue 35| August 27, 2010|

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Real Math


Most people I know hate math. It's almost a given that for a large portion of the human population (those lucky enough to attend school) mathematics is like drinking bitter gourd juice with a straw: slow, distasteful and unending. A lot of it has to do with how math is taught and how relevant it is for the student. I remember being math-phobic for most of my childhood years until taking my O'levels when miraculously the heavens bestowed upon me a tutor who is solely responsible for making me fall in love with Math for the first time. Whether it was his ability to make everything seem easy and his endless patience or his rather 'pleasant-looking' face or a combination of both, math turned out to be one of my most favourite subjects even in university. The idea is to make math applicable to everyday life. Here are some examples.

1. A rickshawpuller earns 130 taka per day. Under a government programme he is eligible for a VGD (Vulnerable Group Development) card which will provide him with 30kg of rice or wheat per month. In reality he gets 25 kg. The chairman of his thana says that he could only get a VGD card if he pays a 'fee' of TK 3000. After negotiations the rickshawpuller pays TK 1,500 thanks to a discount from the chairman and his minions. Answer each question below carefully.

a) How much does the rickshawpuller earn per month? (Answer: TK(130*12=TK 1560).

b) How much rice/wheat is being ripped off from the poor rickshawpuller per year (Answer: {(30-25) * 12}kg = 60 kg).

c) How much 'discount' did he get? (Answer: TK (3000-1500) =TK1500 (which is almost all his salary).

d) Was it really worth getting this 'free grain'? (Answer: Probably not).

e) If the chairman issues cards against a dead person who, if he had been alive would have been given the aforementioned wheat (i.e. 30kg) how much can the chairman expect to add to his bulging store of misappropriated wheat in one year? If wheat costs TK 22 per kg how much does he make? How much if he has cards for ten dead people? (Answer: (30*12) kg = 360 kg. TK (360*22) =TK 7,920. TK (7920*10)=TK79,200 for ten dead people).

f) Now an extra credit question: If the government is paying crores of taka to feed the 'ultra poor' why are they going hungry? (Answer: Because the minions of the government named Chairpersons like to take away a few kg from the poor along with a commission for taking the trouble of handing out the grain in the first place.

2. There are 500 seats available at a government college. 3000 Golden A students apply. Student cadres charge TK 2,000 to get a candidate admitted. The others can go to hell. There are 600 'chosen ones'. a) How much do the cadres earn? (Answer: TK (2000*600)=TK 120,0000). b) How many students get admitted? (Answer: Logically 500. But cadres have a way with words and ammunition and may even 'convince' the college authorities that they do have another 100 seats. So 600).

3. The police department has announced it will arrest reckless drivers whether they are in an accident or not. Assuming that the traffic police and constables allow drivers to get away with murder (sometimes literally) and other traffic violations how much impact in percentage, will the new decision of the police department have on the number of reckless driving incidents?
Answer: Not much.

See, here are the kind of brain teasers that will allow our children to develop their mathematical as well as analytical skills. We can no longer coddle them and cocoon them in a make-belief world of apples and oranges or mangoes and jackfruits. They must learn young. They must apply their education to learn that harsh, cruel, unforgiving phenomenon called Reality. That's how to get them to think of Math as more than just a hateful subject to sabotage the joys of childhood.


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