According to a recent poll by CivicScience, Inc, 56% of Americans think that Arabic numerals should not be taught in American schools. 56%. Another 15% polled had no opinion.
Now, I’m not the most mathy mathematician in the world, but I’m kind of a numbers guy. Some dinner table conversations I’ve started with my kids were about whether one infinite set of numbers can be bigger than another (it can) and whether .999... (repeating) is really equal to 1 (it is). Also, I’m part Syrian (my mother’s side), which I guess makes me Arabic myself. So maybe I’m a bit biased in this situation.
The survey of over 3200 Americans asked a simply worded question: Should schools in America teach Arabic numerals as part of their curriculum? It didn’t ask why the responders answered the way they did. Was it bigotry against anything Arabic? Was it because they felt “Hindu-Arabic numerals” is a more appropriate label than “Arabic numerals?” Are they against all concepts of enumeration? We may never know.
Personally, I think the 15% with no opinion simply didn’t remember what number system we use. Not knowing probably has little effect on their lives. The 56% who voted “no” may also not remember. But voting against teaching something when you don’t know what that something is does show some sort of prejudice. I’ll leave it to the experts to decide what that prejudice is.
Me, I would have voted “yes” if they asked me. Learning algebra and trigonometry was hard enough using Arabic numerals. I imagine it would be even harder with Roman numerals.
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