If you’re a fan of Veep, the HBO satirical comedy, you might have already heard this earnest campaign speech from presidential candidate and anti-vaxxer Jonah:
“Math was created by Muslims. And we teach this Islamic math to children. Math teachers are terrorists! Algebra? More like Al Jazeera… I will ban this Sharia math from being taught to American children. There will be no more math.”
Ha ha ha, the show is a satire. This is literally a joke.
Sadly, a recent poll from CivicScience shows the prejudice in our real life American society might not be too far from the “satire” take – over 50% of your American friends and neighbors don’t believe “Arabic numerals” should be taught in schools.
If you’re wondering why this is news, it’s because the numbers we use every day are already Arabic numerals. And, you know. There aren’t really other options.
CivicScience polled 3624 Americans about their opinions on maths instruction, including the question “Should schools in America teach Arabic Numerals as part of their curriculum?”
56% said no, 29% said yes, and 15% had no opinion.
John Dick, the company’s CEO, tweeted out the results, which have garnered much interest and many different reactions on Twitter since.
“Ladies and gentlemen: The saddest and funniest testament to American bigotry we’ve ever seen in our data.”
He also explained the reasons behind the question, and the poll as a whole:
“Our goal in this experiment was to tease out prejudice among those who didn’t understand the question. Most people don’t know the origins of our numerical system and yet picked a tribal answer anyway. You can argue that one is worse than the other but both prove a similar point.”
The comments range from a general “we’re doomed” vibe to more hilarious (as long as it doesn’t happen) responses like a warning against the day we see people advocating for “freedom numerals.”
At any rate, now a whole bunch more people know where our numbers come from, so perhaps that’s a start!