Additional Math Pages & Resources

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In which of these 3 groups do you belong?

Ready? Here it comes - 

There are three types of people in the world: those who can count and those who can't.


Ha ha ha!

Apparently some mathematicians think the world can be divided into three groups:

1. The first group is a set of people who can't count to twenty without taking off their shoes (Artists?) 

These people exist completely apart from math and numbers - numbers simply aren't part of their consciousness. They don't buy into the mystique of math. They easily say, and sincerely mean, numbers don't measure anything significant. Do you fall into this camp? Are you skeptical about math?

2. The second (Business people?) consists of those for whom math works.

Even if they're not mathematicians, math works for them. It does useful things. They may say that numbers don't measure everything, but that's like saying if cars can't take you everywhere, then where they can't go you don't want to go. This group expects math to measure everything significant. Are you a manager or company owner? Do spreadsheets reveal all?

3. The third group (Scientists?) know math inside and out; so well that they know math's limitations. 

They also say numbers don't measure everything, knowing what things they can use numbers to measure, and why. They're not thinking math is invincible, or omniscient, or a miracle-working black art. They use it regularly so they know its shortcomings.

Even though the scientists and the artists represent opposite extremes of mathematical competence, they both know there are things numbers can't measure.

In general, the second, middle group tends to expect (and desire) numbers to be more reliable than they are, and to do more good that they can.

So what do you think? Into which group do you fall? How much do you trust math? And why? 

I can remember years ago there was a saying that PC people did great reports - all the numbers made sense - but Mac people did lovely reports with lots of color, graphs and charts. The poor people with only pencil and paper were at a disadvantage in presentations, but it didn't mean they were at a disadvantage in thinking things through!