I once had a numbersy customer service job dealing with people trying to find/download various types of data. And nothing would set my teeth on edge quite like hearing some variation on “Tee hee! Math/computers are too hard for me!”

The idea that math or computers or whatever requires some special innate talent is baffling to me. You know why they have classes on this stuff? Because it’s stuff people can learn! Sure we’re not all destined to become great mathematicians but I’m pretty sure most people who put in a good effort can learn the basics of most things, barring some sort of learning disability.

Seriously, Client, your biggest stumbling block isn’t the inherent difficulty of downloading a file or calculating an average – it’s your belief that those are some kind of arcane arts requiring talents you don’t possess. Did you try the instructions I gave you? Do you think I took all those screenshots for the good of my health? Don’t just wring your hands about it, tell me the part that isn’t working. If you can send me all those emails about how The Internet Is Just Too Complicated, you can click on some of the links I sent you. Really. I believe in you! I just, um, need to pour myself a stiff drink now.

Which is the long way to say Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences by John Allen Paulos gave me some flashbacks. It’s basically the same kind of rant above but book length and with more examples. You know, the public is shockingly ignorant about math. And yet it’s not so hard. Education is letting a lot of people down. It spoke to me, obviously, but I have to wonder how many people who dislike numbers would read a book about … numbers. And I have to say some of the things he says about innumerates are a bit on the mean side. But in fairness, some of the things I have said about some clients are also a bit on the mean side. Although not in print

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2 Responses to Innumeracy

  1. Ahahaha, oh, I identify with so much of this rant. When people tell me they won’t use email and must talk only on the phone, I just get cross at them being so contrary. Email is both easy and convenient. Just use computers. Good God.

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