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​New Math

This song is by Tom Lehrer and appears on the album That Was The Year That Was (1965) and on the 3 disc box-set The Remains of Tom Lehrer (2000).

Spoken introduction:
Some of you who have small children may have perhaps been
Put in the embarrassing position of being unable to do your
Child's arithmetic homework because of the current revolution
In mathematics teaching known as the New Math. So as a public
Service here tonight, I thought I would offer a brief lesson
In the New Math. Tonight, we're gonna cover subtraction.
This is the first room I've worked for a while that didn't have
A blackboard, so we will have to make do with more primitive
Visual aids, as they say in the ed biz. Consider the following
Subtraction problem, which I will put up here:
342 minus 173.
Now, remember how we used to do that: But in the new approach,
As you know, the important thing is to understand what you're doing,
Rather than to get the right answer. Here's how they do it now:


You can't take three from two,
Two is less than three
So you look at the four in the tens place
Now that's really four tens
So you make it three tens
Regroup, and you change a ten to ten ones
And you add 'em to the two and get twelve
And you take away three, that's nine
Is that clear?

Now instead of four in the tens place
You've got three
'Cause you added one
That is to say, ten, to the two
But you can't take seven from three
So you look in the hundreds place

From the three you then use one
To make ten ones ...
(And you know why four plus minus one
Plus ten is fourteen minus one?
'Cause addition is commutative, right!) ...
And so you've got thirteen tens
And you take away seven
And that leaves five ...

Well, six actually ...
But the idea is the important thing!

Now go back to the hundreds place
You're left with two
And you take away one from two
And that leaves ...?

Everybody get one?
Not bad for the first day!

Hooray for New Math
New-hoo-hoo Math
It won't do you a bit of good to review Math
It's so simple
So very simple
That only a child can do it!

Now, that actually is not the answer that I had in mind, because the
Book that I got this problem out of wants you to do it in base
Eight. But don't panic! Base eight is just like base ten really -
If you're missing two fingers! Shall we have a go at it?
Hang on ...


You can't take three from two
Two is less than three
So you look at the four in the eights place
Now that's really four eights
So you make it three eights
Regroup, and you change an eight to eight ones
And you add 'em to the two
And you get one-two base eight
Which is ten base ten
And you take away three, that's seven
Ok?

Now instead of four in the eights place
You've got three
'Cause you added one
That is to say, eight, to the two
But you can't take seven from three
So you look at the sixty-fours ...

Sixty-four? "How did sixty-four get into it?" I hear you cry!
Well, sixty-four is eight squared, don't you see? (Well, ya ask a
Silly question, ya get a silly answer!)


From the three, you then use one
To make eight ones
You add those ones to the three
And you get one-three base eight
Or, in other words
In base ten you have eleven,
And you take away seven
And seven from eleven is four!
Now go back to the sixty-fours
You're left with two
And you take away one from two
And that leaves ...?

Now, let's not always see the same hands!
One, that's right.
Whoever got one can stay after the show and clean the erasers.


Hooray for New Math
New-hoo-hoo Math!
It won't do you a bit of good to review Math
It's so simple
So very simple
That only a child can do it!

Come back tomorrow night..., we're gonna do fractions!
Y'know, I've often thought I'd like to write a mathematics
Textbook someday because I have a title that I know will
Sell a million copies; I'm gonna call it
Tropic of Calculus.

Written by:

Tom Lehrer