Monday, November 12

A problem with self-esteem.

Thanks to Laban for this gem:

A LOTTERY scratchcard has been withdrawn from sale by Camelot - because players couldn't understand it.


To qualify for a prize, users had to scratch away a window to reveal a temperature lower than the figure displayed on each card. As the game had a winter theme, the temperature was usually below freezing.

But the concept of comparing negative numbers proved too difficult for some Camelot received dozens of complaints on the first day from players who could not understand how, for example, -5 is higher than -6.

So they withdrew it? If I were running Camelot, we'd've responded by launching a new range of scratchcards featuring surds. Root-2 over 3 and root-3 over 2 — which is higher?

The main purpose of this story, as far as anyone can see, is to report to the whole world what an utter dolt is one Tina Farrell of Levenshulme.

The 23-year-old, who said she had left school without a maths GCSE, said: "On one of my cards it said I had to find temperatures lower than -8. The numbers I uncovered were -6 and -7 so I thought I had won, and so did the woman in the shop. But when she scanned the card the machine said I hadn't.

"I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher - not lower - than -8 but I'm not having it."

Ms Farrell appears not to have grasped that whether she is having a mathematical truth has no effect on it.

"I think Camelot are giving people the wrong impression - the card doesn't say to look for a colder or warmer temperature, it says to look for a higher or lower number."

Now, this is the true brilliance of the deranged. She understands that -8° is a lower temperature than -6°, but thinks that -8 is a higher number than -6. Has she never guessed why we use those numbers to denote those temperatures?

"Six is a lower number than 8. Imagine how many people have been misled."

Yes, just imagine.

This is, of course, evidence of just how crap a British education is these days. But, fun though it be to take the piss out of her over it, not because this woman can't count. Everyone has trouble understanding some things; Lord knows there was plenty of stuff at school I didn't get my head around (though that was usually because it was boring). For Tina Farrell, it was maths. Fair enough. She's hardly alone. The chances of her having had a decent maths teacher are pretty low. But, aside from that, there's a more fundamental problem with her education.

She doesn't even have a maths GCSE — and anyone who's sat one will know just how incredibly bad you need to be to fail it — yet, when faced with Camelot, a company who run the National Lottery and therefore, one might reasonably assume, know a thing or two about numbers, her reaction is to stamp her foot and insist that she's right and they're wrong. This is a woman who has never been taught that she can be wrong. About anything. Even stuff she admits to knowing nothing about.

This is the problem with the cult of self-esteem. If you never tell kids they're wrong for fear of upsetting the poor little dears, this is what you end up with. And this is, in fact, what we have ended up with.

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