I'm also in that comment thread, green to whoever guesses who I am. To be honest, math is easy as shit, I'm baffled that so many people find it difficult.

I'm baffled by how a thread with an interesting premise can turn into a bunch of rambling wankers discussing a reading comprehension question that involves math.

I, too, am in that comment thread. Guess we know where all the TiBers hang out away from the board. 54 is the answer. You're calculating a relative difference in boys and girls, not an absolute difference. For example, if you buy two lottery tickets, you have a 100% relatively greater chance of winning the lottery than if you buy one ticket. But the absolute difference in chances of winning are nearly infinitesimal.

"I know, to explain a very basic math problem I'll throw in some extra vocab and a completely unrelated example, that'll simplify things for people." Bitch please.

You ever read a headline in the news where they say "Carrots double your risk of cancer!" or some shit like that? The operative word is "double". If 1/1,000,000 non-carrot eaters develop cancer, and 2/1,000,000 carrot eaters develop cancer, then yes, you have doubled your risk of cancer. But the absolute increase in cancer risk is 1/1,000,000. Coming to an answer of 54 requires that you calculate the relative difference of girls vs. boys. 67.5 requires that you calculate the absolute difference of girls vs. boys. The language of the question says "twenty percent more girls than boys", which to me calls for calculating the relative difference, not the absolute difference.

Wait, what? Carrots cause cancer? BUT I CAN'T DIE NOW, I BOUGHT ALL THESE LOTTERY TICKETS!!! I wrote 54, but I assumed it was wrong because there was an x by it. To get 67.5 requires both an aptitude with algebra and a really weird way of looking at problems, which is a really unlikely combo. Of course, being spectacularly wrong is interesting, and should be cultivated and put on television.

Blah, feel free to delete if this is off topic, but my point was more along the lines that your terminology was only understood by people who knew that 54 was the answer in the first place and only added further confusion to people that could have arrived to any other answer.

The convoluted way that I got the answer. I felt like a retard after I found out from everyone else that there was a much easier way to do it... Boys + Girls = 100% Girls = 1.2 * Boys 2.2 * Boys = 100% Boys = 45.45% of the class. Girls = 54.55% of the class. From there, I was about to plug in the number of boys as 45.45% of the total number of students... and then realized that the number of students was 99 and that it didn't matter. Whoops. Either way, it didn't take too long to do. The only time that time-saving methods are necessary is when you're working with a problem that is impossible to brute-force. Usually, these problems only show up in combinatorics. For example: You have a cube. Cut off all the vertices, leaving triangles where there used to be points. Now, draw lines connecting every of these new vertices together. Disregarding the lines that follow the edges of this prism, how many lines did you draw? Ain't gonna happen if you don't know how to get a shortcut going.

Divide by five, add, add again. Because there wasn't all that much to it if you think about it for more than twenty seconds. The idea that the quirky nature of the English language is the REAL reason behind America's math deficiencies is like almost every other Gladwell-ish idea out there: more interesting than it is likely. We suck at math because our schools are shitty, our teachers themselves half-witted, our students ill-prepared, and our incentive structure misaligned. People used to learn math because it put people on the fucking moon, which was awesome. In Soviet countries, they beat it into your ass that you'd learn math for the good of the country. The East Asians do it because they understand that one moves up in the world (as a person and as a nation) when you're really good at math). We don't do a good job of making people want to learn math. It's not because we say eleven instead of one ten. The article is another example of American readers' hard-ons for cutesy, slightly unintuitive narratives. This is like suggesting that the reason that the Irish can't cook is because they call it bangers and mash rather than sausage and mashed potatoes.

I'm going to channel a bit of KImaster for this post. I've found that the vast majority of people who "aren't math people" are actually just lazy. The great thing about math is that even if you aren't gifted in math, practicing will increase your abilities faster than any other subject. I'm certainly not gifted at math by any stretch of the imagination and I always disliked it growing up. Yet I've made it through multivariate calculus, ordinary and partial differential equations, and linear algebra. All continuous math that doesn't revolve around proofs is all about practice. If you didn't practice, you didn't get it. I generally assume that people who can't do any math are idiots until they prove otherwise. It has almost always been a correct assumption. I think a big reason we have fallen behind other nations on math is because it has become acceptable to "not be a math person" and to mock people who put the effort in to learn math.

Agreed. I failed many math classes in high school. Then, when it was crunch time and my graduation was on the line, I buckled down and learned what I needed to. I went from failed classes to a 70% average in mathematics. Now, I will admit I barely remember a damned thing about trig and calculus, but that's because I've never used them past high school. Consumer math and statistics, however, I've found use for.

I'll preface this by saying I studied environmental science in college so I'm going to play devil's advocate here. Statistics and algebra were needed for me because they were required to getting proper lab measurements. Outside of a lab what use do I have for learning math? Learning to grasp grammar and English I have an immediate use for but aside from balancing my checkbook, buying a car and house, what use is being good at math? And the average American?

I personally think that math, specifically algebra and calculus, really helps develop critical thinking skills. You are taught a bunch of different methods to use to solve equations, and then you're given a problem and have to figure out which method is best for that equation. It's not so much the math itself that's beneficial, it's that it teaches you how to work through problems to get a solution.

Additionally, it really helps to teach people about abstraction and removing the particularities of THIS problem, so that you can get to the root of the issue. One other thing I've noticed when hanging out with math nerds, is that the farther up the educational ladder they go - the worse they are at simple/mental math. My friend that is going for her doctorate can hardly remember her multiplication tables, but her Mathamatica code samples have been featured on Wolfram's website.

I agree with this, but I would replace calculus with an analysis based algebra course for the average kid. There was a very significant change in my thinking ability when I took my first math proof course in college, it gets to the very heart of what numbers are and pulls the best information from a basic logic course. As for practical application, obviously you don't need to know calculus to be able to balance a check book or figure out how interest works, but someone who struggled with algebra and stopped after that probably wouldn't even try to do either of those things, if you push them past that the basics will seem easier. Basically, if you teach a skateboarding class and make a kid do 720's he'll bang out 360's no problem, if you stop right after he gets his first 360 he'll be less inclined to do it if it came up again in real life (ridiculous example I know, but I think it makes sense).

I always wonder: who the fuck still balances their checkbook in 2011? Do these people not have the internet? But yes, it helps with general finance: what does this APR mean? What's the P/E ratio of the companies in my investment portfolio? etc. And it sure helps when reading the news and trying to figure out what a credit default swap is, or the relative size of US debt to the US economy. In addition to general critical reasoning skills that Frank and others talk about (math is better practice for solid reasoning skills than any other subject, in my opinion. At its core, math is a series of puzzles), he or she would probably have a better job if he or she had learned some math earlier in his life. Math skills means better SAT scores, which means a better college. It also means a better major from an employment perspective. People who major in engineering, physics, chem, accounting, economics, finance, math, architecture, computer science, etc. are less likely to be unemployed, and once employed, tend to earn higher starting salaries. And once you're there, being good at math means better grades. Want to go to grad school? Better bump up those GMAT and GRE scores, son. And if you're a kid from the hood, math is your ticket out of there. My dad looked around and realized that everyone around him woke up at 5 AM to put in a horrible day of hard labor to just barely squek out a living as a farmer. He became an engineer because it would get him the fuck out of dodge (in this case, rural Saskatchewan) and put food on his table. Math gets you paid.