First it was the early '90s Barbie doll that squealed, "Math is hard." Hardly the inspiring words a child might need to learn arithmetic, countersquealed the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), whose protests led Barbie's maker, Mattel, to pull her off the market and offer buyers a replacement.
Now math teachers are taking on another irreverent pop icon: Jimmy Buffett, baby-boomer troubadour, has a new album that includes a song called "Math Suks" with lyrics such as "I'd like to kill the guy who invented this." The album is currently the fourth leading seller on the Internet.
"Songs such as 'Math Suks' can easily hamper efforts to motivate students to learn and excel in mathematics," the NCTM wrote in a 17 May statement. "I heard some young fans calling in to a radio talk show and saying that Buffett is right," says NCTM president Glenda Lappan. "You can say this song is not serious, but the damage is there." The National Education Association also disapproves of the song. And Buffett's words pain some of his math-minded admirers. "As a university professor who tries to get students to absorb mathematical concepts, a Jimmy Buffett fan, and the parent of three daughters, I have to say that I was quite disappointed that Jimmy Buffett stooped to recording this song," says Marc Feldesman, chair of the anthropology department at Portland State University.
But Buffett, who says he was inspired by graffiti on a bridge in Key West, Florida, thinks the teachers' complaints, well, suk. "They should get a sense of humor," the crooner said in a written statement.