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Need an Excuse for Bad Math?

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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Need an Excuse for Bad Math?
    Posted: 20-Aug-2004 at 23:58
Brazil tribe prove words count
When it comes to counting, a remote Amazonian tribespeople have been found to be lost for words.

Researchers discovered the Piraha tribe of Brazil, with a population of 200, have no words beyond one, two and many.

The word for "one" can also mean "a few", while "two" can also be used to refer to "not many".

Peter Gordon of Columbia University in New York said their skill levels were similar to those of pre-linguistic infants, monkeys, birds and rodents.

He reported in the journal Science that he set the tribe simple numerical matching challenges, and they clearly understood what was asked of them.

"In all of these matching experiments, participants responded with relatively good accuracy with up to two or three items, but performance deteriorated considerably beyond that up to eight to 10 items," he wrote.

Language theory

Dr Gordon added that not only could they not count, they also could not draw.

"Producing simple straight lines was accomplished only with great effort and concentration, accompanied by heavy sighs and groans."

The tiny tribe live in groups of 10 to 20 along the banks of the Maici River in the Lowland Amazon region of Brazil.

Dr Gordon said they live a hunter-gatherer existence and reject any assimilation into mainstream Brazilian culture.

He added that the tribe use the same pronoun for "he" and "they" and standard quantifiers such as "more", "several" and "all" do not exist in their language.

"The results of these studies show that the Piraha's impoverished counting system truly limits their ability to enumerate exact quantities when set sizes exceed two or three items," he wrote.

"For tasks that required cognitive processing, performance deteriorated even on set sizes smaller than three."

The findings lend support to a theory that language can affect thinking.

Linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf suggested in the 1930s that language could determine the nature and content of thought.


source

Intresting, i'd always heard those tales of whatever indegnious American languages having only 'one, two and many' as numbers, but most of that was literaly bollucks, but it seems here at least its true, and all because of the influence of language on cultural conditioning and upbringing. There again, i guess they aren't essential ablities, so they only develop in languages/cultures where there is a real need for them.


Off Topic, i still have mixed feelings about the way these forums work over copy and paste, granted, this time round it pasted if perfectly, exactly as it was on the main BBC site, picture and all, but half the time it messes things up, and there seems to be no way to undo formating of pasted taxt without deleting and starting over as far as i can see.


Edited by Cywr
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2004 at 00:08
Very interesting indeed.  I wonder how long they have existed?
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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2004 at 00:16
A long long long long time is my best guess.
Hmm, you could use their language to gain insight to how all human language once was, and see if there is a way to track the development of language along with change in culture and enviroment, and such. Damn, maybe i should have done some linguistics at Uni after all.
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  Quote cattus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2004 at 00:17

When i saw this i immediately thought" there is no excuse for bad math,its the same in all countries". Well i guess not.

agree, the copy and paste is strange.. but am glad we dont have those stupid time-outs.

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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2004 at 00:29
When i saw this i immediately thought" there is no excuse for bad math,its the same in all countries". Well i guess not.


Different languages represent numbers differently, and some may well do it slightly better than others.
There are differences in the standard fo results between Welsh language schools and English languages schools in Wales because of this:
Read here for a little more on that.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2004 at 00:47
Very interesting,  do you think we could create a language at one point that could do for us what it did for the welsh?(A universal language)
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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2004 at 01:02
Hmm, well a few artificial languages have been invented with that in mind, of which Esperanto is perhaps the most well known.

Not quite sure what you meant about Welsh there, as there are two main Welsh dialects, North and South, and speakers of the two like to argue with each other which is better

But languages diverge with geography, even today. Just look at the Differences between Austrailan, British, and American English.
They are somewhat different from each other, and, whilst in the same overall language, are seperate for reasons of both culture and geography. Lets take mass media, Television, most TV programmes in the UK are British, with some of the more popular American ones and a few crappy (i'm sorry for those downunder) Austrailain soaps, so most of the language patterns, accents, local vernacular etc. present on the box, are British, so the exposure is primarily one of British English.
Same is true here for the US and Australia.
The same reason why Geordies (from Newcastle, N. England) have slightly different accents and vernacular ro Brommies (people from Birmingham), again, because on a day to day basis, people from Newcastle tend to talk to other people from Newcastle, not even migration changes this, as with in 2-3 generations, they've picked up the local accent and vernacular.

So as soon as you have created a universal language and taught the whole planet, so long as those people, for the most part of thier lives, chat to their neighbours etc, then over time you will get divergence, at best you can hope to slow it down, keep it to a minimal etc.
So it seems almost like a futile task in a way.

Edit:
Hmm, wait, you meant a universal language for learning or something, so as to learn maths efficiently and what not right?
Well in that case, ignore the above


Edited by Cywr
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  Quote Tobodai Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2004 at 01:54
ahhh such blissfull ignorance before the evil bane of math came to ruin my life
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  Quote demon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2004 at 07:28

Shoot, I never thought tribes from my own country had that complex language...

thanx Cywr for the share

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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2004 at 10:38
No Cywr you had it right,  and I never thought of it that way.
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  Quote Colchis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2004 at 12:44
Originally posted by Cywr


There are differences in the standard fo results between Welsh language schools and English languages schools in Wales because of this:
Read here for a little more on that.


This is really interesting:

For example, the numbers 12, 20 and 23 are represented in Welsh by the more transparent number terms un deg dau ('one ten two'), dau ddeg ('two tens') and dau ddeg tri ('two tens three').


Makes so much sense than saying twelve, twenty and twenty three. Twenty and twenty three are within logical limits but what is eleven? Twelve? Still, better than French where you have to say fourt-twenty for eighty and four-twenty-ten for ninety!
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  Quote boody4 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Aug-2004 at 10:44
Wow, EXTREMELY interesting thread.
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  Quote hansioux Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Aug-2004 at 19:29

This is from someone who speaks manderin and taiwanese (aka holo chinese), the Welsh numbering system is exactly the same as the Chinese system.  The Japanese and Korean has also adopted the same numbering systems.  However, if language is the cause why some group of people are better at math than someothers, then maybe we should compare those who speaks English and those who speaks German.  Because German's einundzwanzig (One and Twenty) to me is much more difficult to understand than twenty one.

Perhaps language can also make some people better at algebra than others?

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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Aug-2004 at 02:43
There thing there is by comparing English speakers to German speakers, you add additional baggaeg to the equation; German education system, is a little bit different, in some cultures people are more driven to certain subjects than towards others, and so on.
At least with teh Welsh/English comparason, it was done in Wales, where, due to the odd linguistic pluralism that exists there, you have people who speak Welsh most of the time (both at home and in school), people who speak it sometimes (mostly at school) and people who don't speak it at all, all of whom are Welsh and thus theoreticly any cultural differences would be so trivial as to be irrelevant, and all use the same educational curriculum.

I suppose your closest bet would be German kids who are born and grow up in Britian (or whatever English speaking country), and have parents that don't stress the German language at home, and those in the same position who do speak German at home, but finding an appropiate sample population for study there is going to be harder.
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  Quote Colchis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Aug-2004 at 22:19
By the way, I was wondering if you do speak Welsh yourself Cywr? Extremely interesting language, I even tried learning it by myself. Remember a few words like Shumei and Creuso which I'm sure I've misspelled anyway. 
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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Aug-2004 at 00:49
Croeso
Shumei sounds Japanese or something

Meh, my Welsh is crap. I've never activly learned it, what i know i picked up from family and living there.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Sep-2004 at 17:20

It's also interesting to see where the original words for numbers stop, and composite words start to appear. For example, in English, Dutch and German the composite words start at thirteen, while in French, they start at seventeen (dix-sept).

Just a shame I can't count that far in any other languages. I think the results would be quite interesting.

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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Sep-2004 at 17:24
The French have a really weird counting system:
60 - soixante
70 - soixante dix (sixty-ten)
80 - quatre vingts (4 20s)
90 - quatre vingts dix (4 20s-ten)


Edited by MixcoatlToltecahtecuhtli
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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Sep-2004 at 17:26
The French count in twenties.
Danish does this too, and old welsh did too, a few other languages do it.
Though it may initialy sound wierd, renember, we have 20 digits
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Sep-2004 at 17:29
Originally posted by Cywr

The French count in twenties.

until 50 it's in tens. 50 in French is cinquante, and not quarante dix.
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