Alternative truths: math

Here’s a humorous but not completely unimaginable video about what would happen if elementary schools were taken over by the view that there are “multiple truths”. This attitude already infects some of the social sciences and much of the humanities in universities, but math is not completely immune to the “different ways of knowing” infection.

Anyway, it’s just a bit of humor after France’s victory over Croatia in the World Cup. It was a diverse and engrossing game, even featuring an own goal, and the best team won, though Croatia didn’t go down easily. Congrats to France, and we’ll see you again in four years!

h/t: Lesley


  1. AC Harper
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Ahem. Not Germany.

    • Posted July 15, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Oh sweet Jesus, France. Where’s my brain–I watched the whole game!

      Shoot me now.

      • Marilyn
        Posted July 15, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        I thought maybe you were just practicing a little
        ‘fake news’ ??

        • loren russell
          Posted July 15, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          France, Germany, whatever: “Old Europe”

          • Kiwi Dave
            Posted July 15, 2018 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

            And not just old Europe, but the old European patriarchy. Where were the women? Shameless misogyny wins again.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted July 15, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        It’s alternative geography. Who’s to say?

        • GBJames
          Posted July 15, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink


      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 15, 2018 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

        “Shoot me now”.

        I imagine both the Germans and the French will be queueing up to do that. 😉

        Never mind, I almost commented that at least Croatia had a finalist at Wimbledon, then I thought to check and found that Novak Djocovic is a Serb. Now that would have been embarrassing. 😉


  2. yiamcross
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Did Germany invade France again or something? We should be told. Now that Europe is a foe of the US (in Drumpf’s world, at any rate) who knows what will happen yet?

  3. Kenneth Averill
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I just thought it was an alternative truth example.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 15, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      Correct if it could be 22 it could be Germany. At least they were dealing with math at my level.

  4. Posted July 15, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Loved the video.

  5. George
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t that be $20,002,000?

  6. Merilee
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Yay Umtiti and Dembele, Barça players both. Griezmann ain’t half-bad, either.

  7. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    The author of the linked scholarly gem, Leone Burton, was a professor of “education in mathematics and science” at the University of Birmingham. [Admirers of David Lodge’s academic novels will recognize U. Birmingham as a model for his “University of Rummidge”.]

    Needless to say, the academic fashion for “education in X”, where X is a real subject, is an innovation of the last 30 years or so.
    It portends a next step which will be a scholarly field devoted to the teaching of the teaching: “education in education in X”, and so on and on, in infinite regress.

  8. freiner
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    No use naming names or going into details, but several decades ago I was at a discussion in which a mathematician spoke to math educators (not garden variety teachers but university level folks)about proof, intuition, visualization and explanation. In doing so he used an elementary theorem from plane geometry. The points he was making were ones that one might think would resonate with liberal educators — at the very least he demonstrated that there are alternative ways of proving the same theorem or solving a problem (though his ultimate points about proof as explanation were deeper than that). Unfortunately, he had used “alpha” and “beta” to denote angles. You know … Greek. You know … Eurocentric. The audience let him know.

    • Merilee
      Posted July 15, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      wtf are you s’posed to use to denote angles?

      • freiner
        Posted July 15, 2018 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        From what I recall — never a good guide in my case — someone proposed colors, and someone else suggested different numbers of dots. I know the suggestions were on that level of wtfness.

        • loren russell
          Posted July 15, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

          Flo reminds me that they would likely quite an issue with rational/irrational numbers. Though I suppose colors could be used here as well.

        • Merilee
          Posted July 15, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

          The kids would then disagree on the #s of dots…We need to throw all Arabic #s out the window.

          • freiner
            Posted July 15, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

            Arabic numerals, Latin squares; Chinese Remainder Theorem …. Lots of stuff to work through here.

      • Zetopan
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

        “wtf are you s’posed to use to denote angles?”

        Murrican names!! How could you not know this? Are you a furrynar or something?

        • Merilee
          Posted July 19, 2018 at 8:48 am | Permalink

          Angle Fred, Angle Sue, Angle Billy Bob. You betcha😂

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 15, 2018 at 8:01 pm | Permalink


      What a bunch of twats.

      The whole point of using Greek letters is that they are *different* from our usual Latin(?)-derived letters! Thus they can conveniently be used for angles without fear of confusion with surrounding text.

      I suppose biology is even more hopelessly Eurocentric, using Latin names for everything as it does…

      Come to that, these words what I am typing are hopelessly Eurocentric in their derivation, so are these letters what they are made of, and any numbers are Arab-centric – what of it?


  9. nicky
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    In the group stages, 2-1 against Australia, 1-0 against Peru and a goalless draw against Denmark, I was not impressed by France. In their 4-3 victory against Argentina, they first showed what a good team they are (but then, Croatia’s 3-0 demolition of Argentina was more impressive) In their match against a weakened Uruguay they were very lucky with their second goal, should have been regulation catch. Not impressed.
    Against Belgium they were better, Courtois for a change not stopping a header he would normally have stopped, but they did not appear to be outplayed by Belgium, they stood their man. Evenly poised, and they were the first team to deny Belgium a goal (and a win) in 25 matches, Lloris showed to be a great keeper there.
    In this final they were given an undeserved (IMMO) penalty, but 2 magnificent field goals sealed the match. A good team, and a young team, they still can grow.
    I was distraught that no African team made it out of the group stages, but we can find some consolation in the fact that France is more or less an African team. At least that is what most of my African friends here say. 🙂

    • Angel
      Posted July 15, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      The better team won, and it was a clear penalty.

      • Tim
        Posted July 15, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        Yes. You “make yourself bigger” with your arms out and it’s a penalty.

  10. Posted July 15, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Great video! Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 15, 2018 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

      I found it too painful to watch. There’s something about righteous idiocy that makes me want to take a baseball bat to their heads. Not that that would improve their mental processes but it could hardly damage what isn’t there.


  11. Posted July 15, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    The Simpsons did a bit on feminist math.

  12. Posted July 15, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Echoing, “loved the video.”

  13. Anne Houde
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Despite the ending, I found the video horrifying. I hope to watch it again some day when it can be just funny.

  14. David Baca
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    France, not Germany, defeated Croatia 4-2

  15. Posted July 15, 2018 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    At 3:50 there’s a woman with a picket sign saying “God hates facts.”

    You have to admit, she has a point!

    • Stephen Mynett
      Posted July 15, 2018 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Facts, logic and reason are disliked/hated by many religionists, here are some interesting quotes from Martin Luther.

      “Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.”

      “But since the devil’s bride, Reason, that pretty whore, comes in and thinks she’s wise, and what she says, what she thinks, is from the Holy Spirit, who can help us, then? Not judges, not doctors, no king or emperor, because [reason] is the Devil’s greatest whore.”

      “And I sat in my heap of pain until the words emerged and opened out, ‘The just shall live by faith. My pain vanished, my bowels flushed and I could get up. I could see the life I’d lost. No man is just because he does just works… This I know; reason is the devil’s whore, born of one stinking goat called Aristotle, which believes that good works make a good man. But the truth is that the just shall live by faith alone. I need no more than my sweet redeemer and mediator, Jesus Christ.”

      • Posted July 15, 2018 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

        Damn, he likes the word whore.

        • Zetopan
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

          Religious fanatics are always really concerned about other peoples sex lives.

  16. BJ
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    The “pitch invader” was apparently a protest by Pussy Riot. Read the article. It’s the dumbest protest and dumbest protest statement you will ever see. I love how they “claim responsibility” as if they committed an act of destructive terrorism.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      I’m guessing the statement suffers some from translation somewhere along the line (even if just the author’s first language wasn’t English) and perhaps a lack of cultural references. It was a bit hard to understand in parts.

      But, I don’t understand your negative reaction. Pussy Riot has been protesting Putin and his government for years at high risk and has often suffered pretty serious consequences. Their causes seem just to me. Here, again, they were protesting Putin.

      More power to them. I only wish they could have managed a bigger disruption and stopped the game longer.

      • BJ
        Posted July 16, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        I didn’t say their cause doesn’t seem just, but just that it was a stupid protest done in a stupid way. I’m not supporting Vladimir Putin.

  17. Posted July 15, 2018 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    You know, 2+ 2 = 22 mod 2
    2+2 = 22 mod 3.

    That might be a question in my combinatorics class: find all integers “n” for which 2+ 2 = 22.

    • Posted July 15, 2018 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      I meant: find all positive integers “n” for which 2+2 = 22 mod n.

  18. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    The Eurocentrism of all those Greek letters in science, such as the infamous µ and the sinister α and ß, has been criticized by woke scholars of mathematics education. It is fortunate that we do have Arabic numerals (I think originally Indian), but unfortunate that they are not West Indian (or “First Nations”) in origin. The absence of African notations in, say, Boolean algebra, will soon
    be discussed in the relevant journals. And, of course, we understand how phallocentric it is to assign “hard” problems to students.

    • BJ
      Posted July 15, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      “And, of course, we understand how phallocentric it is to assign “hard” problems to students.”

      Well done.

  19. TJR
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    If the initial post said Germany instead of France then that is understandable – France are far more like Germany than Germany are nowadays.

    Is “the best team won” an example of these multiple truths? Croatia played France off the park in the first half, and were the better team for most of the second half too. However the referee gave France a 2 goal lead, with a free kick from a clear dive and an incredibly dodgy penalty. Varane was arguably the main reason his team won, very reminiscent of Cannavaro 12 years ago.

    Nice video, but isn’t the last bit wrong? If

    2 + 2 = 22

    then surely

    2000 + 2000 = 20002000

    • Posted July 15, 2018 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      I generally agree with your assessment of the Cup final, particularly the hand ball penalty. It definitely was not deliberate, which is in the foundational definition of a hand ball:

      “Definition. A handball occurs if any player, other than the team’s goalkeeper within his own penalty area, deliberately handles the ball when in play. A ball can be handled with any part of the arm, from the tips of a player’s fingers right up to the shoulder.

      Thus, football’s rules don’t consider the contact of the ball with a player’s arm or hand as illegal. Many misinterpret the rule as any contact of the ball with the arm or hand is an offence. The keyword here is deliberate.”

    • Deni Pisani
      Posted July 15, 2018 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Are you saying I’m stupid?
      2000+2000=22000 – don’t let me hear any of your commie activist fascist maths…

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted July 16, 2018 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      ” However the referee gave France a 2 goal lead, with a free kick from a clear dive and an incredibly dodgy penalty”

      It was 1-1 when the penalty occurred.

      Imho, to block the path to the goal with a hand extended from the body is as deliberate as someone can infer from a behavior. It is similar to Umtiti’s fault against Australia. Professionnals learn to keep their hands to themselves.

      And I find difficult to argue when video assistance is used.

  20. Posted July 15, 2018 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a compass, a slide-rule and a calculator. At a morning press conference, Attorney General Eric Holder said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-Gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction. “Al-Gebra is a problem for us”, the Attorney General said. “They derive solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute values”. They use secret code names like “X” and “Y” and refer to themselves as “unknowns” but we have determined that they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, “There are 3 sides to every triangle.” When asked to comment on the arrest, the President said, “If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, he would have given us more fingers and toes.” White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by the President. It is believed that another Nobel Prize will follow.

  21. Katiness Everdeen
    Posted July 15, 2018 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Green, but not in a good way.

    • Posted July 16, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Another wonderful and modestly dangerous green is that of some 19th century ceramics, which used uranium salts. (Examples were at the science museum in Kensington in 1999; not sure if are any around anymore.)

  22. Posted July 15, 2018 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Well, the ending was funny, but it was mostly enraging.

  23. Posted July 16, 2018 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    Surely her final paycheque should have been $20,002,000?

    If 2+2 = 22 then 2000 + 2000 = 20002000.

    • Zetopan
      Posted July 19, 2018 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      Since the only mathematics that was clearly established within the video was that 2 + 2 = 22, that says absolutely *nothing* about how to add all of those zeros! Likewise we actually have no idea what 3 + 3 equals!

      Perhaps showing how to add other digits will be displayed in a much more advanced future episode.

  24. Posted July 16, 2018 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    “the best team won”???
    No – Croatia played better football but were unlucky & undone by Griezmann cheating with a dive…

  25. Posted July 16, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I think they goofed the ending. Instead of her correcting him, the Principal is the one who should have said $2000 + $2000 is $20,002,000, and she could have taken the cheque with a stunned look on her face, and then smile.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 17, 2018 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      Trouble is, it would bounce. Whereas 22 G’s would probably go through.


  26. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 17, 2018 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Well if the kid was doing programming he might be right.
    If $a = “2” and $b = “2” then $a + $b = “22”

    But of course the kid wasn’t, he was just being a snotty little jerk who should be swatted upside the head.

    Does anyone recall that one of the examples of doublethink in 1984 was the ability to believe that 2+2=5 ?


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