Negative Numeracy

My brother-in-law came across a news story from November in the Manchester Evening News demonstrating just how poor math skills are in this country. The story is just too good not to post in full, though I’ve highlighted a few things in bold:

A LOTTERY scratchcard has been withdrawn from sale by Camelot – because players couldn’t understand it.

The Cool Cash game – launched on Monday – was taken out of shops yesterday after some players failed to grasp whether or not they had won.

To qualify for a prize, users had to scratch away a window to reveal a temperature lower than the figure displayed on each card. As the game had a winter theme, the temperature was usually below freezing.

But the concept of comparing negative numbers proved too difficult for some Camelot received dozens of complaints on the first day from players who could not understand how, for example, -5 is higher than -6.

Tina Farrell, from Levenshulme, called Camelot after failing to win with several cards.

The 23-year-old, who said she had left school without a maths GCSE, said: “On one of my cards it said I had to find temperatures lower than -8. The numbers I uncovered were -6 and -7 so I thought I had won, and so did the woman in the shop. But when she scanned the card the machine said I hadn’t.

“I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher – not lower – than -8 but I’m not having it.

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Yet Another Apology for Slavery

When I saw on the CNN website that New Jersey was considering joining the misguided legislators of the Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in apologising for slavery, I thought, here we go again, more of liberal white folks and their politically correct guilt. Then I got curious.

The resolution is sponsored by Assemblymen William Payne and Craig Stanley. They are both black. Funny, CNN didn’t mention that. Why are they apologising for slavery? So it’s not so much that they feel guilty for slavery as they want to make other people feel guilty for it.

The resolution is being considered today by committee. The Assembly Appropriations Committee. When I saw that, I thought it seemed odd. There’s no spending involved in the resolution. Why would it get assigned to Appropriations? Somebody must have convinced the Assembly Speaker to send it to Appropriations. Will it get an easier ride there than somewhere else?

After all, the closest comparable legislation this session was ACR 175 which “Honors victims of the Holocaust forced to wear yellow badge with Star of David.” It was sent to the State Government Committee, where it died there without action. It was, however, introduced by two Republicans.

And maybe the Holocaust resolution wasn’t forceful enough. It was, after all, a modest five “Whereas” sentences long. ACR 270, the slavery resolution, with a verbosity that would make Al Sharpton proud, runs 26 paragraphs, some of them quite lengthy. See for yourself.

When I looked into why ACR 270 might get an easy ride in Appropriations, I saw that Chairwoman Nellie Pou had co-sponsored other legislation with Payne and Stanley, including extra money for the Wynona M. Lipman Ethnic Studies Center at Keen University. So you know me – I wanted to find out more about this facility. I found a report on the dedication of the center in 2003. It was in this report that I found a unique bit of journalism.

The daughter of the late Senator for whom the center is named spoke at the dedication. Or as the writer put it, “In memory of her mother, and in honor of the event, she read a stirring poem from the late poet, rapper and activist Tupac Shakur. . .” This is the same Tupac Shakur who shot two police officers, went to prison for a sexual assault that the judge descibed as “an act of brutal violence against a helpless woman”, went back to jail for an attack on a former employer, paid off a family in six figures for the death of their six-year-old son, had a former friend murdered execution-sytle, and finally beat the crap out the wrong person which led to Tupac’s death the same night in a drive-by shooting.

But for Assemblymen Payne and Stanley, all that is no doubt the fault of white people in the 18th and 19th century, so they want an apology.