We can haz maths?

This was in a tweet from Ed Yong, so I assume it’s kosher.



  1. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    In the immortal words of Talking Barbie, “Math is hard.”

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      Well, supposedly at least 4/10 of it.

  2. Posted March 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    The oldest reference to the original data that I can find dates to 2005: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/aug/17/poll_shows_americas_lovehate_relationship_math/ although the gaff is missing.

    The oldest image I can find is http://joyreactor.cc/post/21723.

    Don’t see it anywhere on the sites that debunk urban legends.

  3. Sarah
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    A lot of the ones who hated it could have written a better headline than that.

  4. frank rizzo
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    4 out of 10. Yup, that’s a majority alright. No wonder they hate math.

    • Zugswang
      Posted March 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      This must be the “mathematical majority” I’ve been hearing so much about lately.

  5. Posted March 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Balsamean (Scribblements from Balsamea) and commented:
    What I want to know is why AOL still exists.

  6. Veroxitatis
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    As long as you can count up to 6000 do you really need maths?

    • SA Gould
      Posted March 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      You really think they’d be able to do that? What happens when you come to… 666?

      • TheBlackCat
        Posted March 10, 2013 at 4:20 am | Permalink


  7. Jeff Johnson
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    This reminds me of an argument I had with a guy who claimed that 40% of Americans self-identified as conservative, while only 20% self-identified as liberal, therefore most Americans are conservative.

    One hopes that this headline was a subtle irony crafted by a clever headline writer trying to sneak a good joke past the editors. The bosses are never as smart as their workers. That’s why they become bosses, to get them out of the way so they don’t screw up the real work they aren’t capable of doing.

  8. Hempenstein
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile, FOX News is trying to figure out why majority is highlighted.

  9. MorsGotha
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    To be fair to the author of the article, isn’t it usually the editor who sets the headline?

    • Posted March 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      No, that is done by subeditors, who are usually smartest of all.

  10. Posted March 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    there is no hope.

  11. Donw
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Majority? Minority? I fail to see the difference.

  12. BillyJoe
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Maths was my favourite subject in school.
    (We say maths here, not math)

    I can remember being eager to solve the seemingly insoluble maths problems set out in our text book. It seemed amazing to me that these problems could, in fact, be solved – by using calculus – and how intuitive I found it when everyone else in the class seemed perplexed.

    (In year 12, a particularly difficult final exam was set in which I scored only 73, and I was only mildly relieved to discover that the next highest score was 49)

    Maths rocks.

  13. Posted March 9, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Four in 10 Americans ARE a majority, since three in 10 are, in fact, brain-dead.

  14. qbsmd
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    I hated math all through elemtary school. In junior high and high school it became more interesting. Sometimes.

    Now I’m an engineer. I’m convinced that the way math is taught in elementary school is worse than useless. Going through mindless drills to learn arithmetic should not be anyone’s introduction to math.

  15. microraptor
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Suddenly, things that were said by the Romney Campaign in early November make much more sense…

  16. quiscalus
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    I hated math but my teacher was also the head of the bible study club after school.

  17. stabbinfresh
    Posted March 9, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Math in k-12 was boring (except for geometry, if you had a good teacher). It wasn’t until I got to college that math was more interesting. I honestly think the basic concepts in calculus are not too difficult, they’re pretty intuitive I think.

    • TheBlackCat
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, in my book calculus II and below is “basic math”.

  18. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    I used to like maths. I’m still fascinated by such apparent paradoxes as the simple algorithm that generates the infinite complexities of the Mandelbrot set (just start a Mandelbrot program, zoom in to some point as far as the program will allow, and reflect that you’re probably the first person ever to see that particular unique structure). It’s very easily programmed on a home computer, in about two lines of code IIRC.

    Or the ‘logistic equation’ x[n+1] = rx[n](1-x[n]) (the squared brackets represent subscripts, I can’t do that properly in HTML) which – for certain values of ‘r’ – goes chaotic. And the only way to find the value of e.g. x[100] is to work through every previous value in sequence – apparently there is no short cut. But amidst the chaos are ‘islands of stability’ where the equation settles down. (I can’t help thinking “It’s chaotic – how does it ‘know’ when to settle down?” which is completely baseless, I’m anthropomorphising an algorithm ffs!)

    James Gleick’s book ‘Chaos’ is quite a good guide to some of this fascinating stuff.

    • Posted March 10, 2013 at 3:09 am | Permalink

      I second that, and would add Manfred Schroeder’s “Fractals, Chaos, Power Laws: Minutes from an Infinite Paradise” to that subject.

  19. Posted March 10, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    This is an Associated Press article by Will Lester dated August 16, 2005. It refers to an AP-AOL News poll of 1,000 adults conducted Aug. 9-11 by Ipsos, an international polling firm.

    The original AP headline was probably “Poll: Americans have love-hate relationship with math”

    Thousands of local/regional newspapers pick up AP stories verbatim & usually change the headline to something a little snappier to suit their readership. I looked on Google image search for versions of the “majority” headline for the period from Aug 2005 to Aug 2006 & it doesn’t exist in their archive [as far as I can tell]

    If it’s real then it’s some pissant local paper that doesn’t acknowledge sources in the byline. Or it’s a hoax headline…

  20. Ryan
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    This does not surprise me at all. The media is incapable of discussing education without mentioning that it is in crisis, decline, etc. Kevin Drum is the only journalist I know of that realizes this when he writes” the American educational system isn’t in decline. That’s something you don’t hear very often because there are a lot of interest groups who are invested in a narrative of educational failure. But the data just doesn’t back them up.”

  21. Jim Cliborn
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Just to point out that if one starts messing around with the software “Mathematica” (you have already used it if you talk to Siri) math suddenly becomes great fun and very fulfilling in a Martin Gardener “Aha!” sort of way.

  22. Posted March 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Commerce & Arts.

  23. Posted March 12, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    And this is why Republicans are so angry about losing the presidency after having won a majority of the votes.

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