Education Mind Strange

Most Americans Oppose Teaching of “Arabic Numerals”

Recently, 56% of Americans surveyed opposed Arabic numerals being taught in US schools. Funny. What would they prefer instead? Hash marks, Roman numerals, Morse code dots and dashes, Navajo? There are many other options available …

Should we teach these numerals 1234567890 in schools?

“Yes, of course.”

Okay, those are Arabic numerals.

(Blank stare)

Should we teach Arabic numerals in US schools?

“No, why would we?”

More than half of Americans believe “Arabic numerals” – the standard symbols used across much of the world to denote numbers – should not be taught in school, according to a survey.

Fifty-six per cent of people say the numerals should not part of the curriculum for US pupils, according to research designed to explore the bias and prejudice of poll respondents.

We are, most all of us, quite familiar with Arabic numerals.

Arabic numerals are the ten digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. The term often implies a number written in the Hindu–Arabic numeral system (where the position of a digit indicates the power of 10 to multiply it by), the most common system for the symbolic representation of numbers in the world today. 

Via Wikipedia

We Americans use Western Arabic numerals. Actually, we use the Hindu–Arabic numeral system, in which the position of a digit indicates the power of 10 by which to multiply it. This is currently the most common system for the symbolic representation of numbers in the world.

But wait…

I like this story because it has a surprising twist in favor of the underdogs, the seeming and possibly actual ignorant majority. Looking a bit deeper, the term “Arabic numerals” can also mean Eastern Arabic numerals, which are not our familiar numerals.

The term Arabic numerals is ambiguous, it may also be intended to mean the numerals used by Arabs, in which case it generally refers to the Eastern Arabic numerals. 

In fact, a search for Arabic numerals in Instagram returned almost exclusively images of the unfamiliar Eastern Arabic numerals. Are the pole takers simply poor at keeping up with modern word usage?

Get in the habit of fact checking with the intent to prove yourself wrong. With this as your standard operating procedure you will bypass the understanding of many and you will keep yourself honest as well.

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