Sadly, this is not satire.  Fox news contributor Eric Bolling has warned the Republic of Derpistan that a worksheet from a "government school" teaches children about the distributive property as it applies to multiplication.

For those who need a refresher, the distributive law says that a(b+c)=ab+ac, and has nothing to do with secret Kenyan usurper redistributionerism.  Ist.  Ism.

This panic seems to come from an even stupider Neal Boortz column, which practically exults in its intentional ignorance of junior high school math.

From the column:

This is how our government schools – and the liberals who run them – effectively brainwash (though indoctrinate is a much more polite word) our children into accepting the liberal philosophy as basic truth.  This particular worksheet is meant to help your government student “understand the distributive property.”  Now I’m not a dreary slouch at math … but this is the first time in my life I’ve ever heard of the distributive property.
Now before I go any further, I want to remind you that if you never heard of the distributive law (maybe you had chicken pox in 7th grade and missed a month of school) all you really have to do is spend TEN FREAKING SECONDS on Google.  Ten freaking seconds.  You don't even need to spell it right:  search for the "dastrobutive property" and you get a search hint, and even if you ignore that hint, Google will show you the right page.

Now consider that these people are writing columns about it and going on national TV to yell about it.  All without typing it into Google to see if it's a thing.  Think about that:  this is not poor fact-checking, or even a lack of fact checking.  This is purposefully not looking something up, and then bragging, basking in your intentional misunderstanding.

I strongly suspect that pretty much any student can move through school to a very successful life as a productive adult without ever having heard those words.  Really … look at this Bolshoi.  “6 groups of (3+5) = 6 groups of 3 + 6 groups of 5”  I challenge any government school teacher to call the show today and tell me why this is important.  What’s important is that the student be able to figure out what 3+5 equals (8) and that 6x8 = 48.
This is actually a pretty common and depressing refrain we hear about mathematics from all sorts of people from all walks of life:  that some bit of mathematics isn't important to teach people and isn't necessary to know in real life.  It's similar to the trope that "most math is done by calculators or computers," and therefore it's not really so fundamental to learn it anymore.  This is similar to saying that "most writing is done by printers" or "most music is made by electronic speakers," and therefore it's not so important to teach people grammar or the arts---except that nobody ever says anything this patently stupid, unless they're saying it about mathematics.

The distributive property is, in fact, extremely important, and high school algebra relies upon it.  The distributive property is what allows you to expand a product of expressions, for example (x+1)(x-1), and thus it is what allows you to represent a polynomial as a product of factors.  If you don't have the distributive law, you can't do most of high school algebra.

The Boortz column then goes on to criticize the way the worksheet is presented, which appears to be the real grievance:

The headline at the top of the document reads “Distribute the Wealth.”  And there you have the picture of the pretty little girl with the cute little pony tail.  She’s holding a bag of money in one hand, and giving away some of that money with the other.  Yes!  She’s distributing her wealth!  But if you study the picture you’ll see there’s an even more subtle message.  She’s not handing money away from her wallet or her purse.  No!  That wouldn’t get the real message across!  Why pretty much every little girl has a wallet or a purse.  No .. this little sweetheart has a BAG of money!  Not every little girl has BAGS of money … so this girl must be really RICH!  And since she’s rich her money needs to be redistributed!
Boortz actually has a point here that the title doesn't exactly make sense. It's just an irrelevant bit of wordplay on the word "distributive," and the worksheet is all abstract:  there are no problems involving dollar amounts.

That being said, I doubt the picture is anything more than a piece of royalty free clip art, not something intentionally drawn by a liberal math teacher to send a message of communism though subtle visual cues.

If I may go off on a tangent, I think what disturbs me the most about this article is what I mentioned earlier:  that the author takes such pride in not knowing, and even questioning the need to know, what he could have looked up in half a minute without leaving his seat.  When we were in the full swing of jingoism after 9/11, a moderately conservative friend of mine told me that the problem in our political discourse wasn't stupid people or stupid pundits, but the growing trend of being intentionally stupid, as a display of loyalty to a dittohead ethic.

However, I was a mathematics grad student in a former life (ha ha, just kidding, it wasn't really a "life") and I know that when it comes to mathematics in particular, proudly declaring one's ignorance has never gone out of style.  One of the most educational aspects of being a math major is finding out what people say when you tell them you are one.  Mostly people reply that they are incapable of understanding that stuff, because they're "more creative."

It seems like people busted out that line for the sake of empowerment:  you have a bad math experience in high school, and you explain it as something beyond your control, possibly turning it into some positive myth about being better and different from others.  Nevertheless, I was pretty disturbed to see so many college students openly declaring that they are permanently, statically, unable to learn something they don't understand yet.  Why enroll in more school if your brain froze at 18?

This phenomenon is probably unrelated to far-right dittohead logic, but it's more widespread.  If you're a college student, you should probably check if you have similar beliefs---if you think you're just not wired for poetry, or you're too "visual" to do mathematics (no you're not)---and maybe try to challenge those barriers with a class or two before you have to go get a job and the opportunity is lost.

And as a final note, let me quote my favorite comment from the RawStory article:

So we should replace algebra class with more mandatory Pledge of Allegiance recitals and Christian prayers... because indoctrinating kids is bad.

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#### Comment Preferences

• ##### Tip Jar(27+ / 0-)

Taking jokes seriously is the exact mirror activity of laughing if someone says they have cancer. --jbou

• ##### I've always thought(17+ / 0-)

Those parentheses looked suspiciously like a hammer and sickle.

• ##### Standard Right wing function:(9+ / 0-)

Inputs are Mathematical Ignorance of the writer and Interest in defending corporate profits.

Output is a standard bullshit article.

I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

• ##### Just when you think they couldn't be dumber!(14+ / 0-)

What has happened in this country?

• ##### Teh stupid - it burns.(8+ / 0-)

Sigh.  The current Republican Party has really become the Know Nothings reincarnate.  Slogan: "Returning the US to the Dark Ages since 2007."

One quibble with RawStory: "..because educating kids is bad." is much stronger.

Republicans: if they only had a heart.

• ##### If you read Democracy in America...(12+ / 0-)

...none of this will surprise you.  Radical oscurantism is the dark side of American egalitarianism and majoritarianism.  People feel in their bones that nominal equality is tenuous, and they risk losing theirs, unless they make a substantive claim that they really do know as well or better than others, starting with people are actually credentialed in a given area.  On what basis can you be an equal participant in an economics discussion with an economist, or an immunization discussion with an immunologist, unless you specifically deny or at least assault the validity of their knowledge?  People like Boortz have nothing against the distributive property--they have something against the existence of a realm of knowledge that they can't master, because if there's one thing we can't tolerate in our democracy, it's something knowing better than us.

You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

• ##### In America, everyone is an expert(6+ / 0-)

Anyone can do anything, and one point of view is as relevant as another.

I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

[ Parent ]

• ##### We sometimes commit the same fallacy(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
mindara, FloridaSNMOM

Here on Kos, I occasionally encounter someone who believes that we should make college universal.  Send everyone to 4 more years of school so everyone can get a good job.  There was even a "big ideas" diary about it on the front page a while back.

This also commits the fallacy that anyone can do anything---in particular that everyone can earn a college degree if only they had the opportunity to do so.  In reality, only a minority of Americans have the scholastic ability to get through a 4-year degree program at the level of rigor desired by accreditation boards.  Most Americans don't even meet the admissions requirements for most universities.

Taking jokes seriously is the exact mirror activity of laughing if someone says they have cancer. --jbou

[ Parent ]

• ##### That's a trifle elitist(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
FloridaSNMOM, chimene

There are many 4 year degree programs that don't require significant mathematical or other high level technical abilities.  Many occupations require highly developed and professional people skills but only modest technical capabilities.

• ##### Those occupations still require advanced skills(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
FloridaSNMOM

They may not be what you regard as "technical," but whether you major in biology, comparative literature, philosophy or marketing, college is not easy.  At least, it's not supposed to be.

Taking jokes seriously is the exact mirror activity of laughing if someone says they have cancer. --jbou

[ Parent ]

• ##### THAT!!! I know several artist/artisan/craftspeople(0+ / 0-)

who hear "oh, I could do that, if I wanted to spend the time learning how, so why should I pay your price (that's so much higher than the crap-version I can find at Wally-World)?" to their faces, at the craft market. it's a wonder to me that any craftspeople EVER manage to make a living at whatever they've spent 20+ years developing skill at!

"real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

[ Parent ]

• ##### I use this all the time(23+ / 0-)

For faster mental calculations.  In the event some RWNJ wanders by, here is how knowing this can be helpful.

This assumes you have learned your multiplication tables at least to 10x10, which apparently may be a stretch, but has been standard curriculum for decades, possibly more than a century.

Say we want to calculate 7x16.  Not something everyone has memorized.  But... 7x10 and 7x6 both fit within the standard 10x10 table and are both easier to calculate.

7x10 = 70.  7x6 = 42.  70+42 = 112.

Guess what?  7x16 = 112

I can't believe I actually need to show this example to an "adult."

/double facepalm

• ##### that's the long way to do multiplication(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Rogneid, Caj

Not sure why you think that is a shortcut.  A shortcut would be more like doing 15x7= 105 and then adding 7 if you think multiplying by 15 in your head is easier than by 16.  A better example is something like 29x13=30x13-13=390-13=377 since multiplying by 30 is obviously much easier than 29.

But this brings up another point, I think one problem with some of these rules is that they are too obvious once you learn them and consequently seem pointless.  So someone might look at transitivity and say that is very important, while someone else will look at a=b, b=c, so a=c and say that is just no shit sherlock common sense why do I need a law for that.

• ##### Not a shortcut, an easycut.(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Spirit of Life, sayitaintso

See, there's a new word you just learned from an old math teacher. (My spellcheck doesn't accept it, but you may have heard it or even used it!)
The transitive property is one of Euclid's axioms. He would not have gotten far without it!

• ##### Other examples of distributive law for mental math(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Rogneid, trillian, joemac53

Multiplying two numbers is sometimes easier with difference of squares, e.g:

21*19 = (20+1)(20-1) = 400-1 = 399

41*23 = 1024-81 = 1024-100 + 20 -1 = 943

To extend your example, a cheap way to square a two digit number:

43*43 = (40+3)(40+3) = 1600 + 0003 + 0120 + 0120

So just write down the squares of the two digits, add in twice their product shifted one over---it's easier to do than describe:

43*43 = 16|09 + 240 = 1849

37*37 = 09|49 + 420 = 1369

Taking jokes seriously is the exact mirror activity of laughing if someone says they have cancer. --jbou

[ Parent ]

• ##### As an adult with dyscalculia(3+ / 0-)

The distributive property has been a godsend for me more than once in my life. It lets me figure out multiplication problems, and it means that sometimes my brain's propensity for swapping number order around doesn't actually do any harm. (I.e. it doesn't matter if I see 6x5 or 5x6.)

"Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

[ Parent ]

• ##### Even my freshman loved this deal.(0+ / 0-)

We used to make a big deal about perfect squares. When they figured out the pattern for getting from one square to the next they were always impressed with themselves. I would tell them that no matter how many other people had figured out the same thing, they could treat that knowledge like they owned it.

• ##### I was marked as a nerd(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
sayitaintso

when I walked into the mailroom on my first day of college, found my mailbox was 1089 and exclaimed "Oh, boy...a perfect square!"

• ##### Ha, yeah(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
DrPlacebo, joemac53

I tried doing that with every number I heard, and it made me a dork even among my teachers.

"Oh, 1729, that's the smallest number that can be written as the sum of two cubes in two different ways."

"My room number is 256 which is easy to remember because it's a power of 2."

"153?  That's the sum of the numbers from 1 to 17.  And the sum of factorials from 1 to 5.  And the sum of the cubes of its own digits.  And hey, whaMMPPPPH"

It turns out that every number has a cool property like this, because of the well ordering principle:  if there was an uncool number, then there would be a smallest uncool number, which is cool and therefore a contradiction.

Taking jokes seriously is the exact mirror activity of laughing if someone says they have cancer. --jbou

[ Parent ]

• ##### That last proof(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
joemac53

is one of my favorites.

• ##### Still love those Martin Gardner books(0+ / 0-)

Rest his numberish soul.

• ##### Ramanujan and 1729(0+ / 0-)

is a great story, if it is true. (Would Hardy lie?)

• ##### "..but this is the first time in my life (2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
FloridaSNMOM, Rogneid

I’ve ever heard of the distributive property."

Coming from a rightwing ignoramus, why does that not surprise me?

You helped Karl Rove count Mitt Romney votes, didn't you?

Messrs. Bolling and Boortz, some arithmetic 101 is in order please.

God be with you, Occupiers. God IS with you.

• ##### I can understand why he's concerned...(14+ / 0-)

...about teaching math as part of the liberal agenda.

Whenever someone actually sits down and does the math, the results always seem to disprove whatever the conservatives are saying.

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

• ##### When you've lost them on (5+ / 0-)

math, there is no hope whatsoever.

We view "The Handmaid's Tale" as cautionary. The GOP views it as an instruction book.

• ##### This:(7+ / 0-)
I think what disturbs me the most about this article is what I mentioned earlier:  that the author takes such pride in not knowing, and even questioning the need to know, what he could have looked up in half a minute without leaving his seat.
It is the fact that the Right regularly CELEBRATES ignorance.  I can only guess that that is because making people smart must make them liberals.  It is all too close to something from The Onion.
• ##### they celebrate ignorance but call it righteousness(4+ / 0-)

They think science is at war with their traditions and morality; more than that, they think science was invented in order to make war on their traditions and morality, since it inevitably takes the opposite side.  Everything they think is handed down by God or wells up from "nature" - and either way is thus universally valid - is in fact an arbitrary and idiosyncratic belief based on nothing that science respects.  When science says what they believe is not in fact hardwired into the physical universe, they see it as an attempt to negate their beliefs: there is no way you should be, so go right ahead and do whatever you want.

Something's wrong when the bad guys are the utopian ones.

[ Parent ]

• ##### With the new 'Common core' standards(7+ / 0-)

being push nationwide, the distributive property is now taught in 4th grade math.

Looks like these right-wing doofuses dropped out even earlier than we thought.

Filibuster reform now. No more Gentleman's agreements.

• ##### "no problems involving dollar amounts."(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
FloridaSNMOM

Units are so important.

I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

• ##### C'mon, tell the truth -- this is from "The Onion,"(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
prettygirlxoxoxo, trillian

isn't it?

Who was it who originally said that modern society had gotten to the point that it had become impossible to write satire about it?  Maybe the Daily Kos or even liberals in general should adopt a new general acronym:

NFTO -- "Not From 'The Onion.' "

• ##### Not only are the FOX pundits apparently(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
prettygirlxoxoxo

ignorant of the distributive principle in mathematics, but they don't even understand how modern capitalism works. They can't imagine that a corporation might distribute profits among shareholders, or a professional firm distribute profits among partners.

Mind-boggling idiocy.

• ##### Come on people, this isn't about math(0+ / 0-)

He's pissed because the worksheet is called "Redistributing the Wealth" and shows a girl giving away money.

Trashing math is just some ignorant piling on, but using that title and imagery seems inappropriate to me.

There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

• ##### just "Distribute the wealth"(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Randolph06, slothlax

which is used everywhere (especially in sports).

• ##### I understand(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
joemac53

When you get down to it "the economy" is just a vast system of wealth distribution. But the term is loaded and we all know it.

There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

[ Parent ]

• ##### I'm just a dumb quilter(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Spirit of Life

(who has taken more math than about 97% of Americans), but I use the distributive property all the time.

And as a former finance/economics grad student, really this gave me a good, laugh-out-loud belly laugh:

However, I was a mathematics grad student in a former life (ha ha, just kidding, it wasn't really a "life")

I get to choose, and I choose love.

• ##### An even worse property is(5+ / 0-)

the commutative property. It sounds suspiciously like the communist property.

• ##### COMMUTING!(0+ / 0-)

Public transportation! Bike lanes! Agenda 21!!!

• ##### How can we convince our youth to eat(4+ / 0-)

right when our schools are teaching them pi?

• ##### Is it time to pull out the old joke(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
sayitaintso

"He was convicted of using weapons of math instruction"

I only taught math for 35 years, and I could wow the kids with mental math based on the distributive law. Most of them became comfortable with it and used it and I was not so impressive. That was just fine with me.
I would also use base ten logs to do square roots and cube roots in my head, but no one has seen a base 10 log around for a long while....oh, well.
You have to distribute to do algebra, and multiplying binomial expressions used the mnemonic FOIL (I bet everyone has heard that one)
When you use it to multiply complex numbers, you can use FLOI (not nearly as common)

Doesn't Boortz push the flat tax? He should be a numbers guy.

• ##### Even the Onion(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
joemac53

couldn't make this up.

• ##### Did this turn into the thread(0+ / 0-)

where the Daily Kos nerds came to exchange some funnies? It has been a pleasure to be here. Watch out, I'll show up again!