Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mathematics for Bros

Before I begin, I would like to make sure that the title of this post was not misleading. If you are reading because you are fuming at the gender inequality reference in the title, please relax. I am in no way advocating that Mathematics is for Bros; the following post is a collection of the mathematical quips garnered from the "New York Times" bestseller, The Bro Code. It is a sacred cannon passed down from generation to generation of Bros designed to guide the lives and decisions of Bros worldwide. The book takes a humourous look at the superstitions of man, and uses mathematics to explain many "manly" behaviours. Hidden within its covers are facts, figures, and formulae that aim to describe even our most irrational behaviours. The link to the popular CBS television show How I Met Your Mother, makes the little activities within motivating and, dare I speculate, relevant. The reader should know that many of the articles mentioned in this post have been altered to fit into a PG setting. As you may have expected, the appropriateness of the Bro lifestyle is not always up to school board standards. 

I will divide the post by strand. The book itself is divided into articles that are designed to govern all Bros. I will reference the pertinent article with each example. I should mention that all math teachers out there that subscribe to "bro-dom" should be incredibly careful in divulging the contents of the Bro Code to others. I, however, am writing this post despite the immense, personal risk. 

Before the mathematics even begins, we see the first jab at the gender stereotypes. Article 4 describes the risks involved with sharing the Bro Code with a Woman. In the notes that follow, the author writes a paragraph to any woman that may happen to stumble upon the book. He begins his address as follows:

"If you are a woman reading this, first, let me apologize: it was never my intention for this book to contain so much math."

It seems as though the author included so much math to encode the rules for Bros only. As a math teacher of numerous excellent, female students, this claim automatically registers as a joke. It is too bad that the notion of gender inequality is so rampant in society that it finds its way into mainstream television. I digress on this point from now on to focus on the mathematics of The Bro Code

Exponents in the Code
Article 48 states that a Bro should never publicly reveal how many chicks he has... dated. (edited for obvious reasons). The author goes on to define a formula for the acceptable response to the question of his past dating history. 

n = number of chicks
a = Bro's age
s = estimation of the chick's past boyfriends (edited once again)
{1 <= s <= 10}

n = (a/10 + s)^0 + 5

I look at this equation as a golden opportunity to look at the concepts of Domain and Exponents. Bounding the possible values of 's' from 1 to 10 gives a very introductory look at  the concept of possible values and Non-permissible values. The formula also serves as a humourous look at the zero exponent. Any expression, save 0, to the power of zero, is 1. Keeping this fact in mind, the acceptable number would always amount to 6. I am not expecting this activity to provide a deep learning experience, but it will create a strong memory cue. 

Inequalities in the Code
Article 59 states that a Bro must always post bail for another Bro, unless it's out of state or, like, crazy expensive. Below the statement is a quick inequality detailing how to determine when the amount is "crazy expensive". 

Crazy Expensive Bail > (Years You've Been Bros) x $100

If two variables were to be inserted for the qualitative description, there are many learning opportunities. Create a table of values. Graph the inequality. Domain and Range of the variables. The other nice piece about this article is it doesn't have to be modified for inappropriateness. 

Article 113 describes the acceptable age-difference formula. The formula is designed to keep "crafty old-timers from scooping up all the younger hotties". It places a floor on the acceptable age of a girl depending on the age of the Bro. Ironically, the book itself uses a less than or equal to sign when it should use a greater than or equal to. That is an excellent conversation to have with your students. What does switching the sign do to the formula? Does this make sense? etc.

x <= y/2 + 7
x = chick's age; y= Bro's age

This is basically stating that every chick must be less than the set line. Switching the inequality sign provides a more accurate article. How do the two graphs compare? This error actually sets the stage for an even richer mathematical experience. The formula is already in slope-intercept form as well; this provides another convenient bridge to curricular mathematics. Below the formula is a table of values for quick-reference. It would be a valuable exercise to have the student create their own table. A graph would also fit nicely into the activity. 

Graphing in the Code
One of the strongest lessons has already been detailed by Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) on his blog. The link can be found here. Its content comes from Article 86. Giving the students creative license to switch variables and continue graphing builds a deep understanding of the inter-workings of the Cartesian system. It also brings much needed meaning to the ideas of coordinate geometry as a whole. 

Other examples of graphing opportunities can be found throughout the book. Article 56 shows a graph comparing the Bro/Chick ratio at a party and the percent chance of getting noticed. (edited again for content). The image, once edited, can be shown to a class. Reading graphical data is an incredibly important numeracy skill. 

A discussion of the various stages in the graph can impress a deeper understanding of the coordinate system. What happens when the graph gets flatter? Why might some portions be steeper than others? How would you re-arrange it if you don't agree? If you knew there were 300 people at the party, replace ratios with numerical values. There may even be a possibility to discuss piecewise functions.

Article 137 states that a host Bro will always order enough pizza for all his Bros. The equation that follows is a step function. It provides an opportunity to talk about the appropriateness of graphical data. When can the line be solid? When must it be dotted? Why can't this function be continuous? 

The Pizza Equation:

p = 3b/8
p = number of pizzas (rounded up to the nearest integer)
b = number of Bros (including yourself)

Creating a table of values and graphing it makes for an excellent group activity. Rationalizing the resulting pattern makes for a great discussion. I would present the equation to students who have had experience with graphing, and allow them to explore. Some will take (3/8) to be the slope of the linear function, and get a continuous graph. Others will try a table of values and come up with a much different picture. Comparing the two, based on an analysis of the variables, would be an interesting exercise. 

After all is said and done, The Bro Code does an excellent job at poking fun at the ridiculous gender stereotypes in mathematics. The various articles provide engaging activities for teachers to grab on to and modify. Encourage the students to disagree, alter, and create their own mathematical laws. 


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