Math Attack

Listen 49:14

Math is a discipline of logic, but for lots of us, it may as well be magic: a force as powerful as it is unattainable. The “math anxious” among us get tripped up by simple calculations — lost in equations and fractions, until math becomes a barrier. But math competence is an everyday essential, from figuring out grocery-store discounts, to giving your kid the right dose of cough syrup, to deciding on a mortgage. Math also propels innovation and discovery. If you’re avoiding math, you’re probably missing out.

On this episode of The Pulse, we explore why math is necessary to our lives and health, how so many of us got alienated by it early on, and how we might improve our skills.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Lots of little girls don’t love math and end up avoiding advanced math classes. But math skills can be key to academic and professional success. Math lover Tanya Ott asks if we’re socializing girls in a way that holds them back.
  • Wellesley College math professor Oscar Fernandez — author of “The Calculus of Happiness” — explains how math can help you improve your love life, diet, and sleep.
  • We get a blackjack tutorial from mathematician Adam Kucharski, then head to the casino to try out what we’ve learned. His new book is “The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling.”
  • Alex Stern says her stepdad (and his carpentry work) helped her learn her multiplication tables as a kid.
  • A chat with Nan Morrison, head of the Council for Economic Education, about the roots (and the consequences) of financial illiteracy.
  • Sixth-grade teacher Nicole Wisler says teaching math feels like an urgent calling — and a chance to disrupt the disempowering narratives students tell themselves about their math ability.
  • Psychologist Ellen Peters explains why math skills matter to health.

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