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An Old Joke, But New To Me

The author says this is an old joke, but it was new to me.  It traces the evolution of math quizzes in our public schools:

 

1960s

A logger cuts and sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four-fifths of that amount. What is his profit?

1970s New-math

A logger exchanges a set (L) of lumber for a set (M) of money. The cardinality of Set M is 100. The set C of production costs contains 20 fewer points. What is the cardinality of Set P of profits?

1980s

A logger cuts and sells a truckload of lumber for $100. Her cost is $80, her profit is $20. Find and circle the number 20.

1990s

An unenlightened logger cuts down a beautiful stand of 100 trees in order to make a $20 profit. Write an essay explaining how you feel about this as a way to make money. Topic for discussion: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel?

He goes on to show how reality may have overtaken the joke.

Posted on January 10, 2008 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

Comments

Help me out here...do I laugh or cry?

Posted by: Hazel Stone | Jan 10, 2008 11:09:53 AM

Here is a better one.

TEACHING MATH IN 1940:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

TEACHING MATH IN 1950:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

TEACHING MATH IN 1960:
A logger exchanges a set L of lumber for a set M of money. The cardinality
of set M is 100, and each element is worth $1. Make 100 dots representing
the elements of set M. The set C of the cost of production contains 20 fewer
points than set M, and answer the following question: What is the
cardinality of the set P of profits?

TEACHING MATH IN 1970:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. Her cost of production is $80 and her profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

TEACHING MATH IN 1980:
By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees? There are no wrong answers.

TEACHING MATH IN 1990:
A company outsources all of its remaining loggers. The firm saves on benefits, and when demand for its product is down, the loggers are let go. The average logger previously employed by the company earned $50,000 per year, and had 3 weeks paid vacation, a nice retirement plan and medical insurance.The contracted logger charges $50 an hour. Was outsourcing a good move for the company?

TEACHING MATH IN 1995:
A laid-off logger with four kids at home and a ridiculous alimony from his first failed marriage comes into the logging-company corporate offices and goes postal, mowing down 16 executives and a couple of secretaries, and gets lucky when he nails a politician on the premises collecting his kickback. Was outsourcing the loggers a good move for the company?

TEACHING MATH IN 1999:
A laid-off logger serving time in Folsom for blowing away several people is being trained as a COBOL programmer in order to work on Y2K projects. What is the probability that the automatic cell doors will open on their own as of 00:01, 01/01/2000?

Posted by: Phil | Jan 10, 2008 11:15:16 AM

That's it! Winner and champion! Phil!

Posted by: Jim Collins | Jan 10, 2008 12:26:29 PM

Yes, it's an old joke, at least among mathematicians (I am one of those creatures). I thought, when I was first reading the Foreign Policy article that somebody was repeating it, or at least translating it from German.

At least our kids should do better when up against German kids in math tests.

As long as our kids can answer the questions while hooked up to their little Wiis.

Posted by: William Briggs | Jan 10, 2008 1:32:25 PM

FYI this post on your main page is half covered by an ill mannered Career Builder/AZCentral ad.

Posted by: Jay | Jan 11, 2008 7:29:13 AM

All fine stories! But there an update...

TEACHING MATH IN 2008:

Un maderero vende un camión de madera de construcción para $100. Su coste de producción es 4/5 del precio. ¿Cuál es su beneficio?

Posted by: Mark | Jan 11, 2008 1:23:57 PM

All fine stories! But there an update...

TEACHING MATH IN 2008:

Un maderero vende un camión de madera de construcción para $100. Su coste de producción es 4/5 del precio. ¿Cuál es su beneficio?

Posted by: Mark | Jan 11, 2008 1:26:05 PM

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