Tag Archives: math

Winning Isn’t The Point


I don’t know about you, but I didn’t win the lottery last night. Alas, it would have been handy. Also, just this once, the subject doesn’t manage to circle around to cats, like so much else does in this house. There had to be something that didn’t.

I think my favorite part about really big lottery pots are the increase of news articles about math and finances. No one seriously has the lottery as their retirement plan, or at least they don’t call it that. When someone implies winning the lottery is their answer to declining social security funding, it’s their way of saying they don’t have a plan. It’s sort of like a cynical American idiom.

I know I have a few blog readers who aren’t in North America, for you happy souls not troubled with constant worry over Presidential Primaries and outright horror at who our next president might be, let me quickly explain our lottery. I’m not sure what countries have and don’t have them, so bear with me.

Only 6 out of 50 states don’t participate in the lottery. In the 44 that do, and territories, you can buy a ticket, pick six numbers, and pray they match what the machine spits out on Wednesday or Saturday night. If you get all six, you win.

When it comes to winning the lottery, being willful doesn’t matter. This is the part where I get irritated that we’re in such a hurry to teach trigonometry to high school students that we don’t ensure they understand statistics. A bigger pot means more people will buy tickets, but that doesn’t mean you’re competing with your neighbor. They have exactly the same chance of winning that you do and the odds of your one ticket winning doesn’t change no matter how many tickets your neighbor buys. It’s not a raffle, it’s a lottery. You have to choose the numbers, not have your ticket drawn out of a giant fishbowl containing millions of other tickets. I’m really tired of hearing people talk like they don’t understand that.

CNN ran an article a week ago and listed some of the things that are more likely to happen than winning the lottery:


I really like that last one: you have a better chance of being struck by lightning while drowning. Wow.

And after all of this, even intelligent people will buy the occasional ticket, especially if they don’t have to go out of their way to do it. Why? Hope. And it’s fun to think about if I won the lottery I’d … But you can’t dream if you don’t play.

The Boy is unimaginative. He’s almost 16 and doesn’t have a learner’s permit yet because of his grades. We require him to have an overall and semester B average, and he had a bad year last year. But if we won the lottery, I’d pay the extra to add him to the car insurance. Also, he wants a car. See? Boring.

The Girl is thinking tactically. Lottery winners are targets, so she wants to move to a house that has a perimeter fence, and another ten feet in – like for guard dogs. Except instead of dogs, she wants guard goats. Yes, goats. A combination of fainting and screaming goats, plus billy goats to ram intruders. I’m unclear how exactly that’s better than dogs, but she has it all planned out. Something about goats are friendlier to the environment and cuter. I’m very pleased she’s not going into a security-related field.



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Downfall of Math in America


I am back in high school and, for once, it’s not my son’s fault. The kids had yesterday off because … the teachers weren’t at school. I don’t know why there wasn’t school yesterday, there just wasn’t. In the case of my son doing his online homeschooling, a teacher holiday shouldn’t make much of a difference. He’s behind on his classes. The powers that be, meaning Hubby, decreed The Boy was permitted to take advantage of the day off and left Thursday night to spend some time with a friend and … I expect him back sometime today so I can help him (nag, nag) get caught up in school. He has a big project that shouldn’t be big, but it is because he didn’t do any of the prep work assigned during the last five lessons that would make this just the last step. No, he has six assignments rolled up into one now.

The Girl, is caught up with her school work. I would love to say that’s the advantage to her being in a regular high school, but it’s just the way she is. To be a responsible little senior, she’s taking online ACT practice tests. Yay! And she keeps having trouble with one type of problem that comes up in math. Oh. Not to be thwarted, she Googled it. That didn’t help. Damn. Okay, fine, time to be the mom.

I sat her down and asked what kind of math problem it was, praying it wasn’t Trigonometry because I doubt I remember that, and trusting it wasn’t Calculus because I don’t remember her taking it and I really don’t remember that. She didn’t want to talk about it.

Um, what?

Why didn’t she want to use me and instead keep trying to figure it out by looking at online resources? It was embarrassing. How the hell is math embarrassing? Yeah, ask that to a teenage girl who introduced me to the Ackles Ass Equation. She didn’t blush then. Fine, pushing that aside, what was embarrassing about this particular math problem? It couldn’t be bad, it was on an ACT practice test.


A while later, it turns out it’s something she should have known for a long time and didn’t master then. Factoring. YAY! I can factor, I remember that! So I sat her down and showed her how to do the problem on her test. Just having a person show her instead of reading it on a website seemed to make the difference. Until Hubby got involved. The problem was find the largest common factor between three numbers. I had her completely factor all three. It’s not difficult, and it doesn’t have to take a long time. It does the job, and The Girl understood it.

But there are shortcuts. Hubby thought of three in seconds and muddied the waters trying to let her use her time more efficiently. I shooed him away and showed her how to do it again without any shortcuts. (They rely on tricks and having an inherent understanding of math. I love my little girl, but math isn’t her strength. She has to do things the long way and write it all out or there’s little chance she’ll get it right.)

Now I’ve sent her off to take another ACT practice test, because that’s what every overachiever 17-year-old girl wants to do with her Saturday. Then I’ll let her spend the rest of the day watching Adventure Time, if she’s inclined to. I hope so, that way I can guilt her into to taking another practice test tomorrow.

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