Sunday, November 14, 2010

Yeah, Who Needs Math?

If you get the Denver Post on Sundays, you might check out page 1D for the opinion column titled A Predicament for the Ages. Or, you can just read it online, although unfortunately they don't include the graphic online. So I've captured it here (click on it to enlarge it).

I know that as 14 and 15 years olds, you probably don't think the budget debates going on in Washington D.C. are very relevant to you, especially the ones about Social Security and Medicare. But you'd be wrong - they are extremely relevant to you. The decisions that are going to be made in the next five to ten years (and you'll begin voting in 3 to 4 years) are going to have a significant effect on your lives.
Longtime banking executive John Allison recently told financial writers it was a "mathematical certainty" that the United States would go bankrupt within 20 to 25 years unless we dramatically altered course.
So the article suggests that we'll need either massive benefit cuts (think about your parents living with you when you get older because they can't afford to live on their own), or huge tax increases, which will leave you with very little disposable income (think about making just enough to pay the bills and nothing left over for "fun" stuff). And it also suggests several other controversial options for trying to solve this predicament (raising the retirement age, investing social security in the stock market, etc.).

The mathematics of these entitlement programs is very complicated, and this article really doesn't go into much detail, but you are going to want to become much more knowledgeable about these issues as you enter adulthood, as your generation will have to solve these issues. So, while at times Algebra may seem pretty irrelevant to you, I think this article makes a good case for why you need to have a strong handle on mathematics as you go forward with your lives.

Update 11-15-10: You might also take a shot at fixing the budget.


  1. This is a great graphic: it captures the essence of what is happening without even getting into words and debates - it simply is. It even looks somewhat like shoulders --- as in whose will shoulder this increasing burden? Math/art - thinking outside the box - I bet our kids could come up with creative solutions.


    Here's a great animated population pyramid showing Canada's changes from 1901-2001. It can be stopped at any point making for interesting class discussions about what was happening at different times throughout the century.