Daily Archives: July 12, 2003

Saturday, July 12, 2003


Where Have All the Lisas Gone? is a New York Times article from a couple of days ago. It’s interesting to read how names get popular and how, after a while, they’re “worn out” and replaced by new popular names. Some of the trends which were described in the article are also noticeable in Germany, but not all of them. For example, you can’t name children for places or things (the article predicts that colour names are going to become popular) because there are rules for first names in Germany. Names have to be in the International Handbook of First Names in order to be accepted in Germany. And if you choose a name that works for both girls and boys, you have to choose a middle name that determines the sex of the person. While this may seem like a huge restriction to Americans, it really isn’t so bad, I think. And it does have the advantage that people cannot accidentally name their children like some kind of virus or bacteria (I’ve read some weird stories about first names…).


When do you learn how to factor or solve quadratic equations in highschool outside of Germany? Here, at least two methods are taught in 9th grade, and one of them is Vieta‘s theorem.

I’m baffled by the story posted in this MetaFilter thread. A highschool student supposedly discovered a “new” way to factor a quadratic equation, the teacher is astonished, tries it out on several equations and decides to teach it from now on. The funny thing is, the Lizzie method is equivalent to Vieta’s theorem, which you can easily verify in five minutes.

To me, it sounds like the teacher didn’t even try to prove the solution before deciding to teach it to other students. And doesn’t she now about Vieta’s theorem? The guy lived in the 16th century, so the theorem is not exactly brand new!

And another question: Does the author of the article even know what a quadratic equation is?

“The quadratic equation has befuddled high school students for decades. An intimidating problem fraught with square roots and X-variables, the methods for its solution involve countless steps that are difficult to remember, tedious to implement, and often leave students empty-handed. The quadratic equation is also something of a threshold; students who don’t master it generally find themselves near the terminus of their math education.”

Sounds like the author did in fact not master it…


Ein ganz nettes Lernprogramm zur Teilchenphysik bietet die Physikdidaktik der Uni Erlangen an.