来源:新浪博客 外研社 发布者:人教教学资源网 时间:2015-06-04

I AM afraidyou’re eligible to read this column only ifyou can answer this question facedby eighth gradersaround the world:


What is the sumof the three consecutive wholenumbers with 2n as the middle number?


A. 6n 3

A. 6n 3

B. 6n

B. 6n

C. 6n-1

C. 6n-1

D. 6n-3

D. 6n-3


More thanthree-quarters of South Korean kids answered correctly (it is B). Only 37percent ofAmerican kids were correct, lagging their peers from Iran, Indonesiaand Ghana.


We know Johnnycan’t read; it appears that Johnny is even worse at counting.


The EducationalTesting Service released a global report finding that young adults fromtheUnited States rank poorly in reading but are even worse in math — the worstof all countriestested. This is the generation that will be in the labor forcefor the next half-century, strugglingto compete with citizens of othercountries.

美国教育考试服务中心(EducationalTesting Service,简称ETS)发布的一份全球报告称,美国年轻人的阅读能力排名不佳,但数学能力排名更糟——是所有参加测试的国家中最低的。这代人将在今后半个世纪成为劳动者,他们难与其他国家的公民竞争。

It’s not justthat American results are dragged down by poverty. Even Americanmillennialswith graduate degrees score near the bottom of international ranksin numeracy.


We interruptthis column for another problem:


How many degreesdoes a minute hand of a clock turn through from 6:20 a.m. to 8 a.m. on thesameday?


A. 680 degrees

A. 680度

B. 600 degrees

B. 600度

C. 540 degrees

C. 540度

D. 420 degrees

D. 420度

Only 22 percentof American eighth-graders correctly answered B, below Palestinians, TurksandArmenians.


In a recentcolumn, I offered a paean to the humanities. But it’s also true, as aprofessornotes in a letter to the editor, that science majors do takehumanities courses. In contrast,humanities majors often desperately avoid anysemblance of math or science (except forclasses like “Physics for Poets”).


Numeracy isn’t asign of geekiness, but a basic requirement for intelligent discussions ofpublicpolicy. Without it, politicians routinely get away with using statistics,as Mark Twain supposedlyobserved, the way a drunk uses a lamppost: for supportrather than illumination.

会算术不是怪咖的标志,而是对公共政策进行理性讨论的基本要求。路灯在醉鬼的眼里是用来支撑身体而不是照明的——据说语出马克·吐温(Mark Twain),如果没有算术,政客三天两头像醉鬼利用路灯一样去利用统计数据,也不会被发现。

(I believeAmerican high schools and colleges overemphasize calculus and don’tsufficientlyteach statistics. Statistical literacy should be part of everycitizen’s tool kit.)


Public debatesoften dance around basic statistical concepts, like standard deviation,becausetoo few Americans understand them. And people assume far too much of“averages.”


After all,American adults have, on average, one ovary and one testicle. But try findingsuch an“average person.”


Another popquiz:


A piece of woodwas 40 centimeters long. It was cut into 3 pieces. The lengths incentimetersare 2x -5, x  7 and x  6. What is the length of the longest piece?

一块木头有40厘米长。它被切成3段。以厘米为单位,三段木头长度分别是2x-5、x 7和x 6。最长的那段有多长?

Only 7 percentof American eighth graders got that one right (the answer is 15 centimeters).Incontrast, 53 percent of Singaporean eighth graders answered correctly.


I know manyreaders will grumblingly protest that they’re just not good at math! True,thereare math prodigies who are different from you and me. When the greatmathematician CarlGauss was a young boy, his teacher is said to have asked hisclass to calculate the sum of allthe numbers from 1 to 100. Gauss supposedlysupplied the answer almost instantly: 5,050.

我知道很多读者会发牢骚抗议说,他们只是不擅长数学而已!诚然,世界上有些数学天才异于你我常人。据说伟大的数学家卡尔·高斯(Carl Gauss)还是一个小男孩时,他的老师在课上要求学生计算从1到100所有数字的总和,高斯几乎瞬间就得出答案:5050。

The teacher,flabbergasted, asked how he knew. Gauss explained that he had added 1 and 100,2 and 99, and realized that there would be 50 such pairs each summing 101. So50 times 101equals 5,050.


So I agree:Let’s resent the Gausses of the world for being annoyingly smart. But let’snotuse that as an excuse to hide from the rigor of numbers. Countries likeSingapore manage toimpart extraordinary math skills in ordinary children becausethey work at it.


Numeracy isn’tjust about numbers, of course. It’s also about logic. Let me leave you withalogical puzzle — a family favorite, one that I first heard as a little kid —that isn’tmathematical at all. Yet people with math training seem better atthinking it through andsolving it:


You’re in adungeon with two doors. One leads to escape, the other to execution. Thereareonly two other people in the room, one of whom always tells the truth, whilethe other alwayslies. You don’t know which is which, but they know that theother always lies or tells the truth.You can ask one of them one question, but,of course, you don’t know whether you’ll bespeaking to the truth-teller or theliar. So what single question can you ask one of them thatwill enable you tofigure out which door is which and make your escape?


It’s not a trickquestion. When you hear the answer, you’ll see it’s straightforward.Firstreader who doesn’t know this problem, works it out and tweets me thecorrect answer or postsit on my Facebook page gets a signed copy of my latestbook or a Saddam Hussein poster thatI liberated in Iraq during the war there.I’ve posted the answer on my blog, but you won’t needthe help, will you?

这不是一个脑筋急转弯。一旦你听到答案,你会觉得它很简单。之前不知道这个问题,但想出答案的人,可以在Twitter上把答案发给我,或者贴在我的Facebook页面上,第一个给出正确答案的人,可以获得我签名的新书一册,或者一张我从战时的伊拉克解救出来的萨达姆·侯赛因(Saddam Hussein)海报。我已经把答案贴在博客里了,但你不需要看答案,对吗?

(转载于新浪博客  外研社)

地址:北京市海淀区中关村南大街17号院1号楼 邮编:100081 京ICP备11022010号-1