The Corner

For Mathephobes

You think you are mathephobic? The following is from an article in

the last (12/10) issue of Science News. It concerns a tribe called

the Piraha, who live deep in the Amazonian rain forest:

So for the next few months, Daniel Everett–a linguist … and Keren

Everett, a missionary with linguistic training, ran evening classes in

math and literacy for the forest dwellers. However, although the

Piraha know volumes about hunting and jungle survival, the group

flunked both courses. None of the roughly 30 people who regularly

attended classes learned to count to 10. None learned to add 3+1, or

even 1+1.

[The article goes on to explain Everett’s theory about how culture

shapes language. The theory is highly controversial, though.]

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