# Weapons of math instruction

By Murray Bourne, 25 Aug 2006

I loved this from A School Yard Blog [now defunct]:

## A Must Post

A public school teacher was arrested today at JFK INTL Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.

"Al-gebra is a problem for us," Gonzales said. "They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute value. They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves as unknowns', but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There are 3 sides to every triangle'."

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes." White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by the president.

### 2 Comments on “Weapons of math instruction”

1. Alan Cooper says:

Although the authors of the joke seem to see “al-gebra” as just a funny coincidence, I’ve always thought that it could be used as a lead-in to a discussion of the origins of the subject and as a timely reminder of the fact that there was once a time when the Islamic world was a refuge of tolerance and rationality.

2. Murray says:

Yes, Alan - I also wondered whether the authors were aware of this.

My own page on al-Khwarizmi gets a lot of hits from people looking for "father of algebra".

In my part of the world, it is great that the heads of both Malaysia and Indonesia are trying to steer their countries down a path of modernity and moderation. A big part of this push is education, particularly in the sciences. Mahathir (former prime minister of Malaysia) was always exhorting the Malays to emulate the former glories of the Islamic scholars.

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