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Posted August 9, 2005
Sat II Math for Dummies--a review
When Mattel brought out the talking Barbie a few years ago, cries of educators and feminists forced the toy company to take the chatty doll of the market. Nonetheless, the teaching of mathematics has caused chills in the hearts of high school students, many of whom realize this is a subject where close enough and fudging does not count. In the 1990s, the slogan 'do the math', to visualize a bargain made or lost, merely referred to elementary arithmetic. And McDonald's and other fast food purveyors have cash registers that only cite the name of the sandwich, and not the pricing thereof. The nasty numbers are forgotten. Lawyers, who, except in criminal law cases, usually deal with measurement of damages, division of property or other numerical concepts, are notorious for having avoided mathematics classes throughout their undergraduate training (law is one of the few graduate fields that has no prerequisites whatsoever). And so our country lumbers along with distressing mathematical illiteracy. It was largely to meet this unfulfilled need that the SAT II came into being. And, although the testing has changed, the phobias associated with math tests still remain. Ironically, math proficiency may be the only aptitude test that is relatively free of cultural bias. You do not have to be proficient in the English language to excel in mathematics. This book, like most of the 'Dummies' series, is 'for the rest of us'...including those who have somehow become good estimators, because they have avoided calculation throughout their professional lives. It is interesting, in this respect, to note that neither of the authors of this book is a mathematician. Scott Hatch is a teacher of law, Lisa Hatch a teacher of English. Both bring their sense of logic and a common sense approach to this most daunting of subjects. And they do it well. The aim of this book is twofold: to provide a review of high school algebra, geometry and trigonometry, on the one hand, and to teach the aspiring collegian the best strategy for success on the SAT II. In this regard, the Hatches follow the same teaching philosophy used in the other Dummies series. A substantive review of the subject (algebraic functions, for example) is immediately followed by the type of questions the test-taker might expect. In this regard, the Hatches use a handicapping system worthy of any good horseplayer or a guide to Vegas. By the time one finishes this book he or she should be an expert in casting out the egregious or hysterical answers, at the same time narrowing the field among possible answers. Of course in mathematics, more than in the other test subjects, a solid knowledge of the area is essential to winnowing out the wrong answers and zeroing on the correct--or at least the best--response. In addition to mathematics per se, the review guide goes into the field of probability, which, of course is the stuff statistics are made of. 'Mathematicians didn't like living in an imperfect world, so they created their own,' says John D. Williams, Ph.D., professor of measurement and statistics at the University of North Dakota. In fact, this book modestly bridges the gap between the abstract world of pure mathematics and the application to daily problems, using sports references and a slangy, jazzy writing style to appeal to the student and keep his or her interest. The problems are spaced along through the narrative at a pace that manages to keep your interest through the entire book. Mathematics is probably better classified as an art rather than as a science. In the Middle Ages it was considered one of the liberal arts, and, of course, it does not have an empirical base. Mathematics is based on assumptions rather than observation and experimentation. True, you cannot have a good scientific research paper without mathematics, but you can't have one without rhetoric either, and no one ever called public speaking a science. With regard to the me
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