The Walking Dead: Negan’s math advice equals good sense

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

When it comes to apocalyptic arithmetic, general education and The Walking Dead, Negan isn’t wrong with his view on the real-life approach.

Looking back to The Walking Dead episode “Who Are You Now?” there was a great moment when Judith was working on math homework and she turned to Negan for help. Negan’s advice was to forget about word problems about airplanes and think about real life problems, and that could be the best advice about math ever given. His math advice also shines a light on what topics should be covered in a post-apocalyptic classroom.

People who work in science or engineering fields use complex and higher math on a regular basis, and more power to them. If I’d been better at math I would have studied astrophysics. As it happens, I’m more of a language person so my dreams of working for NASA were dashed by the dastardly quadratic formula.

For those non-math people out there, you might have toiled away in algebra and discrete math and pre-calculus and even calculus, wondering what the heck you’d ever use that stuff for. If you’re not working in science or engineering fields you, like me, might still be wondering that very question.

It’s admirable to think that since All Out War there has been a focus on creating an education system for the kids at the various communities. Judith has her sword lessons and then she does her homework. But what lessons make sense for the Children of the Apocalypse?

If roughly eight years have passed since All Out War, and another, say, three years since the start of the apocalypse, then any child under 12 would have no idea what the world used to look like. The apocalypse is their frame of reference. There are no planes, very few cars, no computers and certainly no cell phones.

Teaching history seems very important so as to not forget what things were like before, as does studying literature and writing essays to develop critical thinking skills. Science would be very important, but on a more practical level. No more converting moles or memorizing the Periodic Table. Biology, anatomy, ecology, chemistry and earth science will be what helps to rebuild the future and ensure that there will be future doctors, ecologists and experts on plants, farming and animal husbandry.

When it comes to math, geometry is something that comes in handy on a daily basis. Aside from the four basic functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) geometry just might be the next most practical math for most people. Whether it’s lining up a shot on the golf course to remodeling a kitchen, or even parallel parking, geometry helps with everything on a daily basis in our everyday lives and it would be equally relevant in the apocalypse.

Negan’s advice to Judith, then, is spot on. Instead of word problems about airplanes, focus on real math applications. If a single stalk of corn yields 15 ears of corn, how many stalks must be planted to feed 50 people assuming two stalks per day for a week? That’s useful.

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Apocalypse education should be practical with clear, immediate real-life correlations. Understanding how things work, why they work, and how they relate to daily life is critical to ensure that the youth grow up to not only be survivors but to make a difference in the future.