Thursday, June 17, 2010


The following are my remarks to the Comments Section in the Columbian newspaper following the story about Washington State's math failure rates:

Mathematics requires logical and rational mental skills. We live in a nation in which a large percentage of us still believe that the supernatural and irrational Genesis tales make up a true story. In fact there's an interesting correlation between the percentage of Americans who believe that Genesis is a true story and the percentage who aren't logical enough to pass a simple math test.

If you want a real explanation for our modern problems, study what neuroscience is revealing about human brain function. We are living with a consciousness that evolved between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago to meet the needs of small tribes of hunter-gatherers, living in a Neolithic culture. Their math skills were simple counting skills and their intuitions were adapted to aid them in living together in SMALL communities. They were good at hunting, fishing and gathering and in working together in small social units. When farming arrived, larger communities came into being and new social skills were needed. We're still trying to catch up to cultural change, to bring our brains up to speed with the fast-changing technical culture we live in. Change only gets faster. Those who are falling behind are frightened and, thus, angry.

A sign that one's brain is adaptable enough to live in a modern, technological culture is its ability to think logically and rationally and that will be reflected in mathematical test scores. Not that intuition is no longer needed (intuition is NOT logical nor rational). Intuition evolved from our living within cultures. It’s our brain’s adapted tool by which we evaluate one another and decide who to trust or not to trust in our daily lives. Good intuitive skills are needful to survival, but logic’s mathematical skills are becoming really necessary to being able to adapt to modern requirements.

1 comment:

Raithie said...

Knowing that over 40% of americans don't accept evolution is depressing.

And knowing that the maths fail rate in Washington is 42%, well... it just calls for a facepalm.