Thursday, 10 May, 2001
I've always had something of a feel for numbers, and the ability to quickly determine at least the magnitude of a calculation and one or two significant digits. This skill is something I learned and cultivated when I was younger, and I find that it slowly deteriorates if I don't use it often. I realize that not everybody shares my interest in numbers, but I don't understand many peoples' complete disinterest and total inability to perform even the simplest calculations beyond simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Division is "hard," so they don't know how or when to use it.
Examples are just too numerous to list. Ask 100 people on the streets if a million is less than, a little more than, or a lot more than a thousand. Or ask about the relationship between a million and a billion. The answers are truly amazing. Or ask for a quick estimate of the number of minutes in a day. Better yet, tell somebody that there are 10,000 minutes in a day and see if they blink.
These are just simple examples of innumeracy. The innumeracy web site addresses these and other problems with a focus on helping people to develop not only their numerical skills, but also critical thinking skills. The site is chock-full of very interesting reading.