Friday, February 27, 2009

Why Everyone Should Understand Fractions

You don't want to come across as stupid as Nancy Pelosi does, do you? Regarding the potential drawdown of forces in Iraq, where 50,000 troops will remain, Madame Math says:

“I don’t know what the justification is for 50,000,” Representative Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat and the House speaker, said on MSNBC. Noting that she wanted to hear the president’s plan, she added, “I would think a third of that, maybe 20,000, a little more than a third, 15,000 or 20,000.”


Unknown said...

A third of 50,000 is 16,666, so about a third to a little more than a third in the closest multiples of 5,000 would be 15,000-20,000. I think if she was doing a mission critical math calculation that much error might be a problem, but for explaining troop levels rounding to easily spoken numbers isn't exactly a big deal. I mean if were going to make gaffes into serious news why not bring up Biden's internet "number" gaffe and really show the world how infallible everyone should be.

Anonymous said...

I find that sort of stupidity combined with that amount of power painful to comprehend.

Anonymous said...

A very small bit of editing would result in: "I would think a third of that, [or] maybe 20,000, [em dash] a little more than a third[;] 15,000 [to] 20,000." Not the best oratory I've ever heard, but it doesn't actually suggest that La Pelosi has trouble with basic math.

I cannot believe that I am defending Nancy Freaking Pelosi here: but I do think that you might be engaging in the same kind of thing that we saw from e.g. Slate where they'd regularly 'prove' that George Bush was an incredible idiot by quoting extemporaneous speech without context or punctuation.

It's not like there's exactly a shortage of *actual* Pelosi idiocy to criticize.

Anonymous said...

Pretty much correct for a ballpark figure, I guess.

Anonymous said...

And as for Biden's internet number, technically every URL is resolved to a number.

David Foster said...

More important: how does she derive her number? Is it from close study of the situation in Iraq, in conjuction with her extensive reading in military history, strategy, and tactics?

Or was she just running her mouth?