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LoboOpinion The Independent Voice of UNM since 1895

Opinion editor / Nathan New



Friday April 8, 2011 / Ext. 133

Letter Math lets us ask, ‘How many pancakes can fit into a Volvo?’ Editor, The Daily Lobo published an opinion letter expressing one student’s frustration with the “rigid structure that forces all students to pass the same unnecessary courses” in order to get his degree. The author pointed to his algebra class as a particularly bad example of this, saying, “There are thousands of different ways math could be applied to my foreseeable life without ever needing to understand those basic rules that higher science uses.” While I am certainly sympathetic to the author’s claim that math can be tedious and confusing at times, I think he is missing the point. His frustration is a subset of larger problem in the math world (namely, people see math as valuable only for its applications and nothing more than formulas and memorization.) In reality, nothing is further from the truth. Math does have lots of wonderful applications. But that is not the reason we do it. Math is really about finding an interesting question and using a logical framework to answer that question. We work on a problem simply because it is fascinating for us to think about, and we would like to know the answer. There is no specific goal in mind other than knowledge itself. Math is about curiosity and (dare I say it) fun! Mathematicians wonder about things like: “How many pancakes would fit in a Volvo?” or “What’s the shape of the universe?” Then they try and answer those questions using some special mental tools they have developed. However, the author also brings up the issue of taking classes which are not directly tied to your specific major. The point of classes like algebra is learning to become an expert in something that you might not initially be good at. It’s practice! Think about weight-lifting. You don’t lift weights to be good at lifting weights; you lift weights to be in better shape — to run faster and jump higher. The same is true for English courses. You don’t take a course on Shakespeare so you can get good at reading his plays. You take the course because reading his plays will help make you a better writer and a more effective communicator. At some point in your life, you will be faced with a problem that you do not know how to solve immediately. College math is about preparing you for that moment. It’s about training you to think and adapt to situations that you have no control over. At its very core, math is the science of taking large problems and breaking them down into more manageable ones that we know how to deal with. Understanding that process will make you a better thinker and a better human being. That is what being in college is all about. That is what getting a degree really means. It doesn’t just say you’ve completed the required courses or that you got an A in chemistry. It also says you are a thinker, a problem solver and a well-rounded individual. Matthew Dahlgren UNM student

Editorial Board Pat Lohmann Editor-in-chief

Isaac Avilucea

letters Cars make us fat and sick; walking is a good doctor Editor, Ten years ago was the last time I rode in any car. I have owned no car since 1979. I had a driver’s license for 36 years, but I did not renew it when it expired in 2000. I am glad I have no car. I would not keep a car if you gave me one free. I pledge never to own a car for the rest of my life. I enjoy the freedom of not having a car. I avoid all parking traffic tickets. I have no hassles with car repairs, car theft, car crashes, flat tires, vandalism, monthly payments, depreciation, paying for insurance or finding a parking space. I save much money and many resources — oil, metals, rubber, etc. Most people worldwide cannot afford

NM’s teachers have been chipping in for a long time Editor, I see in Thursday’s Albuquerque Journal story, “University Budget Choices,” that Gov. Martinez is concerned that UNM is considering helping to shield its employees from a state-mandated retirement increase. Martinez says she believes this plan “violates the law’s intent to have employees chip in.” The governor wants educators to chip in? Gov. Martinez, what do you think we have been doing our entire careers? My colleagues at UNM, at NMSU, in APS, all the state’s teachers, have been chipping in as long as we have been working as teachers. We chip in our time, our energy, our evenings and weekends. We chip in our money, too, not just in the form of lower pay and years without any salary increases. Teachers routinely pay out of their pockets

to own a car. Imagine how much sicker our Earth would be if all people old enough on Earth drove cars like most Americans. Cars cause wars for oil and global climate change. Cars vomit poisons into the air. Highways, garages and parking lots smother millions of acres of fertile soil. Car crashes cripple, paralyze and kill millions. Cars isolate people from other people and from nature. Sadly, most Americans are addicted to driving their cars as much as their dollars and time allow. Most Americans have no strong conscience against hogging the world’s resources and poisoning the Earth for future generations. Many Americans regard this insane, deadly addiction to driving their cars and to flying in jets as their absolute right far more precious than the lives and homelands of Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans, Nigerians, Colombians, Ecuadorians, etc. destroyed in the U.S. empire’s mad pursuit of oil.

I enjoy walking most places I go in town. Our legs are great doctors. Much walking strengthens bones and heart, prevents diabetes, cleans the mind, sheds fat and stimulates blood circulation. Cars spoil people, making their bodies fat, lazy and sick. Occasionally I ride the city bus or the Rail Runner. I have not travelled out of state since 1994 when my dad died in Illinois. Walking is best and bicycling comes second, but I never learned to bike. Then follow trains and buses. Worst of all for human health and the environment are cars and planes. I wish I had realized these things 45 years ago when I was a college student. I am deeply indebted to many people who have taught me, loved me and inspired me in the university of life.

for a myriad of expenses imposed on us, expenses that in any other situation would be covered by the employer. For example, UNM requires faculty to attend conferences. This is not a choice; it’s a requirement to maintain our jobs. If faculty don’t do this, they are judged to be not performing their duties, and they don’t receive tenure. They’re fired. But UNM has never provided adequate funds to cover the expenses of these mandated job duties. So, faculty chip in with their own money. And now, in the current budget climate, UNM provides no travel money whatsoever to many, perhaps most, faculty. But we are still required to perform our duties as academics, so we pay for these expenses out of our own pockets. My department has chipped in. When the budget crunch hit UNM, my department did the only thing it could with the very little discretionary money it had — it cut faculty phone lines. As a result, I’m chipping in again. When students need to contact me,

when prospective students and their parents in other states want to ask questions about our program, I use my personal cell phone, and I pay the bill. This state-mandated increase in my retirement contribution is not going to my retirement. It’s being poured into the state’s coffers, helping the state to bail itself out of a budget crisis our state’s legislators, not its teachers, created. There’s no doubt that we all need to do whatever we can to pull our state, and our state’s educational institutions, out of this dire situation. But please, Gov. Martinez, don’t insult me and my brother and sister educators by telling us it’s time for us to chip in. Our contributions over the decades and across the state have built careers, businesses and made New Mexico a better, more prosperous state. We have chipped in, and we continue to chip in.

Don Schrader Community Member

Sherman Wilcox UNM professor

Managing editor

Nathan New Opinion editor

Elizabeth Cleary News editor

Letter submission policy n Letters can be submitted to the Daily Lobo office in Marron Hall or online at The Lobo reserves the right to edit letters for content and length. A name and phone number must accompany all letters. Anonymous letters or those with pseudonyms will not be published. Opinions expressed solely reflect the views of the author and do not reflect the opinions of Lobo employees.

NM Daily Lobo 040811  


NM Daily Lobo 040811