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Numeracy in public life

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GuyBarry
1323681.  Fri Jun 07, 2019 2:03 pm Reply with quote

(Reply to post 1323661.)

PDR wrote:
Are you seriously suggesting that if an interviewee used the phrase "increased by a factor of ten" John Humphrys would not understand what he meant?


No, I'm not.

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I put it to you that he is fully au fait with this everyday-english usage of the word "factor" but in not having experienced the use in arithmetic questions for something over 60 years he didn't make the connection and didn't recognise this was actually describing the same concept.


That may very well be the case - but it's hardly something to be proud of. Why is it considered acceptable for someone like John Humphrys in a senior position of authority to display his ignorance of basic mathematics in such a fashion? I don't suppose John Humphrys has had to do spelling tests for over 60 years but if he started boasting about not knowing how to spell simple words he would be the object of ridicule. There is such a double standard about this.

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Non-STEM people are like that - they often miss the connection between the abstract model and a real world situation it may be commonly used to describe.


There's no need to show off about it, though. I do appreciate that he left school at 15 to get a job on the local paper. But he passed the 11-plus, so he must have had a basic grounding in maths.

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But rather than just snobbishly jeering at their lack of STEM capability


I'm not being a snob - far from it. The snobbery comes from people who think that ignorance about maths somehow sets them above people who understand it. It's almost a badge of honour in this country to be a failure at maths.

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can you show an example where this alleged disability has led to a disfunctionality in such an interview?


I've already done so, in my comments about "GDP is 0.5%", but there have been other examples - especially on climate change, where I've heard interviewers repeatedly talking about "temperature rises of 2%" when they meant 2 degrees. And it wasn't just a slip of the tongue - they clearly had no idea what they were talking about.

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I don't expect the interviewers to be technical experts.


Nor do I, but I expect them to understand basic maths.

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Every now and then I spot them suffering an knowledge shortfall, but it's rare.


Wow. I'm not a scientist or an engineer but I get the impression that the level of ignorance about technical subjects amongst Today presenters is woeful.

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I presume that the National Curriculum is supposed to consist of concepts that are useful outside the narrow educational environment.


I'm not sure that stands much scrutiny. We teach matrix arithmetic to 12 year olds, and I doubt they find very much use for that unless they go into certain specific fields.


Is that value for money? I would have thought that taxpayer-funded education should concentrate on material that's of general use.

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Well I didn't! I actually find them distracting because I end up not listening to the next item. There have been quite a few times when I've missed an interesting interview because I was trying to work out some mathematical problem or other.


Yes, but the Today programme (like this forum) is not here for your exclusive use. The fact that you don't like or approve of something does not trump the detail that others may have a different view.


You think there are listeners to Today who want to be distracted from the programme?

I enjoy doing mathematical puzzles. I also like being informed about current affairs. However, it's beyond my mental capacity to carry out both activities at the same time.

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I think the issue here is more related you your need to work on your attention span!


Congratulations if you've ever been able to solve the puzzle while simultaneously taking in whatever was being discussed on the programme. We mere mortals can generally only concentrate on one such task at once!

 

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