Tuesday, February 04, 2003

The Pizza Rant

I'll attempt to make this one quick.

Back in my Stats 101 class in college, we had to do some really stupid story problems. A lot of times the "correct" answer would get confusing, and not make any real sense. This is because math teachers have no grasp on what reality actually is. I think they walk around in some hazy numeric dream state imagining if the world really was governed by their demented sense of vision. Too often, they try and put word problems in a tone that sounds familiar to the student answering the question, when they should really just be giving us questions. The whole idea of putting the question in story form is actually nothing more than mental trickery, and has nothing to do with actual math. This is the whole reason why I think story problems (like the one in the previous post about the paint) should be eliminated from standardized testing, because they don't make any real sense. For example, I give you the famous Pizza Question:

It's lunchtime, and you're hungry, so you head into a Pizza restaurant. There's three lunch specials:

The 10" Pizza which costs $10.25
The 12" Pizza which costs $13.50
The 14" Pizza which costs $15.10

Which pizza is the best value for the money?

I'm not even going to bother arguing symantics with you about the fact that the question merely asks "which pizza is the best value for the money," allowing such answers as "Pizza Hut!" or any other Pizza delicatessan of your choice. I'm not even going to bother showing you what the "proper" method of achieving the right answer is, because it involves attempting to resolve the surface area of the different pizzas from the diameters given, and then dividing the number of square inches (surface area) into the amount the pizza costs. I may not have even written down the dollar amounts properly, because in the original question given to me, the proper answer is the fourteen inch pizza.

Remember the first line of the question? How it says you're hungry, not "you and a bunch of your friends" are hungry? So the answer to this question is that the "best value" for the money is me walking into a pizza parlor and spending over fifteen bucks on lunch. For myself.

After the teacher revealed this answer, I asked, rather loudly, "Wouldn't the best value for the money be one or two slices of pizza? I mean, we did walk into this place by ourselves, as your question states in the beginning. Wouldn't spending five bucks be a better value for the money rather than spending fifteen dollars on a lunch we couldn't possibly hope to eat by ourselves?"

The auditorium laughed, and the teacher didn't really have much to say.

Needless to say, I just squeaked by with a "C" in Stats 101. I guess according to Math Teachers I'm really stupid or something.

I'm just happy that I don't walk through life buying a keg of beer instead of a six pack when I'm thirsty because it's the "best value for the money."

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