Quote by twofishquant
Also problems about piles of wood are pretty stupid. No one gives a damn about piles of wood, and if you talk to a professional logger they'll tell you that the problem is bogus anyway. Since I've taught at the University of Phoenix if I have to come up with a word problem it would be something like.
1) You just lost 40% in your 401(K) last year. Assuming that your employer doesn't/does match contributions this year, how much do you have to contribute to reach your retirement goals assuming the Dow goes to 12000, 10000, 8000, 5000?
2) If you were to get laid off tomorrow, how much money in the bank do you need to survive for X months?
3) What increase in salary do you need to make your tuition in UoP a positive investment?
4) How much money will you save if you pay off your credit cards?
All you have to do is to mention three or four of these sorts of questions, and then Algebra 101 is no longer boring or montonous, and at that point you focus on concepts so that people have the skills to answer those questions, and other questions which life throws at you. Again, if the US had a decent math education system, my students would have learned all of this in the 7th grade, but better late than never.
I sometimes wonder if the reason that Chinese are huge savers is that most educated Chinese in China can do basic algebra whereas a huge fraction of Americans can't. If you can't do math, you are going to have to rely on the bank to do the math for you, and you are likely to get screwed since the guy at the other end of the table knows how much money he can squeeze out of you, and you don't.
(How much is this adjustable rate mortgage going to cost me, if interest rates go up to 8%? How much do house prices have to go down before I'm underwater?)

I'm not sure about University Algebra, but that is not really the point of an article that addresses math education in K12.
The author addresses the attempt of math teachers trying to make math questions relevant to students and explains why this makes math boring for them.
Anyone who has been in front of a classroom of 9th or 10th graders would tell you these types of questions would immediately put your class to sleep. These students are simply too apathetic.