Pop Culture and Math

by Tyler Clark

Kareem Carr made a post on the 17th about students hating math. In regards to this, I was watching TV the other day and saw a very disturbing commercial. It was a commercial for the United States Postal Service (USPS). They were advertising their shipping services to an elementary school class. When they get to the question and answer section of the presentation, one little girl raises her hand and says “do you need math?” The USPS worker then responds “no.”

In a nation that is “below average in applying math skills to real-life tasks[1]” in regards to 15-year-olds, this message is quite disturbing. This commercial is sending a message to students that math is not important in the real world; hence, it is not important at all. Just a few years ago (1992), Mattel, the makers of Barbie, came out with a talking doll that uttered four phrases out of 270. One of these phrases was “math class is tough[2].” The video below shows one of the barbies that said this phrase.

It is quite sad that our media reinforces the idea that math is unimportant and impossible to master. When our media brings these ideas to the forefront of society, how is our education system supposed to become better? What do you think about commercials and popular toys relaying these messages to children? Do you know of any other elements of popular culture that portray either positive or negative aspects of math?

[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/09/13/national/main838207.shtml
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/1992/10/21/business/company-news-mattel-says-it-erred-teen-talk-barbie-turns-silent-on-math.html?scp=1

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