doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

A bunch of whys

  1. I know why it ended up in my news feed. I subscribe to a lot of subject categories about computer science and mathematics
  2. I know why I read the article. It was click-bait but the title was kind of interesting and I just had to know more
  3. I know why I’m writing this blog post. My first principal was adamant that we should challenge wrong things where and when they happen

There’s the setting.

The story?

Should Arabic numerals be taught in schools? Most Americans say no

My first reaction was kind of a geeky one – if we removed Arabic numerals from schools, most of the mathematics anxiety would go away!

But, of course, there had to be more. Media literacy says to check.

So, is this true? Snopes says yes.

Now, I don’t know “most Americans”. I do know quite a few through my connections in education and relatives. I can’t imagine in any way where they would have done anything except laugh at the premise.

In defence of “most Americans”, I have to believe that they wouldn’t know the characters as Arabic numerals. I’d suggest that they’d refer to them just as numbers. Bonus marks for digits.

I think that we all know the reason for the results and that would lead to more whys.

  1. Why would that even be considered a research question? Kind of an answer is given in the article
  2. Why wouldn’t you follow up with an alternative like perhaps a switch to Binary?
  3. Why would you post the results from a sample that you have to believe didn’t understand the question?
  4. Why wouldn’t this be passed through an office of ethics before going live? I know that any survey we had at university had to go through a process before we could use it

One of the survey creators was quoted in the article about the reason for the question. Combining it with mathematics, you’d almost be guaranteed of knowing the results before sending out the survey.

I wonder. Would the results have been the same if the topic being surveyed had been Arabica coffee?

All that we can hope is that educational policy makers don’t use things like this as “consultation” as they create their policies.

As an educator, I hope that those people questioned went home and did a little research about what they answered.

Or get used to gas prices of 11111100 .


2 responses to “A bunch of whys”

  1. This morning a DJ asked a caller the question about which running of the Indy 500 this would be if the 75th running was in 1991. The caller said “the 40th”. The DJ repeated the question by saying the 75 running was 28 years ago so what running was this going to be. The caller said 50th.

    I have other examples of public math ignorance but suffice it to say there is a lot of it in the US.


  2. […] A bunch of whys – doug — off the record […]


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