# Arithmetical skills

#### bigbadwolf

There's a bit of a discussion that's been taking place on someone's FB page regarding the British government's intention to use children's mastery of the multiplication table as a criterion to judge the academic success of any given school. In the course of the discussion a truly surprising number of people have confessed to not knowing the table. Out of curiosity is there anyone here who doesn't know the table, doesn't know how to manually calculate square roots, doesn't know how to use log and anti-log tables, doesn't know how to factorise polynomials?

#### C S

There's a bit of a discussion that's been taking place on someone's FB page regarding the British government's intention to use children's mastery of the multiplication table as a criterion to judge the academic success of any given school. In the course of the discussion a truly surprising number of people have confessed to not knowing the table. Out of curiosity is there anyone here who doesn't know the table, doesn't know how to manually calculate square roots, doesn't know how to use log and anti-log tables, doesn't know how to factorise polynomials?

I am pretty certain manually calculating square roots is not something commonly taught anymore in the US and most Americans would find your mention of that as archaic. (background: taught at several universities, taught at an "elite" high school. Found square root algorithms were pretty much a mystery to most students, and even at the high school I was considered strange for emphasizing this particular skill.)

#### bigbadwolf

I am pretty certain manually calculating square roots is not something commonly taught anymore in the US and most Americans would find your mention of that as archaic. (background: taught at several universities, taught at an "elite" high school. Found square root algorithms were pretty much a mystery to most students, and even at the high school I was considered strange for emphasizing this particular skill.)

I know. In fact I'm pretty sure most US math high school teachers today don't know to calculate roots either. Not sure how adept they are with log tables either.

#### bigbadwolf

Arithmetical skills were the first quant skills:

Between the 13th and 16th centuries a group of merchants in Europe, particularly in Italy, wrote manuscripts to teach merchants’ children, who attended special training schools, the newly received arithmetic. But what is perhaps most interesting about these manuscripts is that almost all of them teach how to use arithmetic, particularly in the act of barter, to cheat their trading opponents and increase what they called the “overprice.” As such, these medieval manuscripts taught that the rule of exchange was to come out ahead in transaction and that barter was “nothing but giving a good for another in order to get more.”

To make a long story short, in the medieval markets arithmetic became a tool, a “financial innovation” to use the language of the modern market, to make more money. The rule of the game was to take advantage of arithmetical ignorance of others to gain as much profit as possible. This was how capitalism was born. It was born not of honesty, equality, justice or fairness in exchange, but of deceit, swindle, inequality, injustice and unfairness. It was also in this same period that one can find the emergence of many other financial innovations, such as forward contracts and bills of exchange, innovations that tried to increase profit by reducing uncertainty and risk.

#### Daniel Duffy

##### C++ author, trainer
I am pretty certain manually calculating square roots is not something commonly taught anymore in the US and most Americans would find your mention of that as archaic. (background: taught at several universities, taught at an "elite" high school. Found square root algorithms were pretty much a mystery to most students, and even at the high school I was considered strange for emphasizing this particular skill.)
I would say most students not.

How to solve

x = cosx

just using tables?

or square root of 0.743.

#### Gavin L

In the Australian school system there is an increasingly reliance on calculators... and I'm not just saying for things like working out solutions to $$x^2 = x + 1$$, but things like $$\cos \frac{\pi}{3}$$. (I have tutored many students who cannot function without it...)

I certainly was not taught how to calculate square roots in school... Admittedly I am very poor in arithmetic - don't know if it is my not-botheredness or otherwise...

#### Daniel Duffy

##### C++ author, trainer
I kept one school homework book from the 60s. Here is as excerpt LOL

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#### bigbadwolf

It's a recent conjecture of mine that those good at numbers and arithmetic tend to be capitalists while those poor at them tend to be lefties.

#### MBA-Trader

It's a recent conjecture of mine that those good at numbers and arithmetic tend to be capitalists while those poor at them tend to be lefties.

I used to think like that, too. It's a timeless stereotype, really. The fast take-no-prisoners trader type who votes for republicans and the bohemian philosophy professor who supports the radical left.

Lately, though, I think this empirical observation has more to do with the fact that everyone who gets the call of the money sirens, especially in finance, is automatically converted into a libertarian capitalist overnight, no matter the political beliefs he held in, what is now, his previous life.

#### bigbadwolf

The billionaire villain of Richard Condon's novel, "Winter Kills," claims that "if a man knows how to read a balance sheet, what else does he need to know?" Most of the lefties I run into -- and I run into a fair number as my sympathies are inclined that way -- not only can't read a balance sheet or income statement, they don't know the multiplication table. So they have no real idea on how the Man is squeezing them.

The emphasis on the quantitative seems to be part of our tech and capitalist modernity.

#### Daniel Duffy

##### C++ author, trainer
It's a recent conjecture of mine that those good at numbers and arithmetic tend to be capitalists while those poor at them tend to be lefties.
Unless you are a farmer

#### Gavin L

That video was hilarious.

Anyway, about your false dichotomy of libertarians vs leftists - what about the physics PhD who can do arithmetic but gives 0 f***s about a balance sheet?

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