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Arabic Numerals in School Draw Strong Opposition in Brookings Register Poll

The Brookings Register is messing with its online readers’ heads. As I scroll through their website, they throw me a poll asking, “Should schools in America teach Arabic Numerals as part of their curriculum?”

The poll asks a couple other questions, then throws some dihydrogen monoxide on the Shariaphobia evident in the responses:

Brookings Register, online poll, 2019.05.11.
Brookings Register, online poll, MMXIX.V.XI.

As of XVI:XX this afternoon, LVII per cento of MMMMLXXIV respondents oppose teaching children those sinister Arabic numerals. Another XIV per cento chose not to register an opinion on this controversial question of Arabic influence in education.

Your Saturday afternoon challenge is to think of any good (i.e., not bigoted or ignorant) reason for anyone to respond NO to this poll question. Indian nationalists demanding proper recognition for their role in creating our number system? Binary devotees?


  1. jerry 2019-05-11

    Brookings residents were also asked, “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?”. Not surprising, some 29% thought subsidy instead of Grant and were unsure of the need for schooling anyway. 14% did not know that Grant had even died or who he was in the first place. Numbers don’t lie even if they are Arabic.

  2. Kal Lis 2019-05-11

    I don’t want to see results of a poll asking whether the metric system is a socialist plot to destroy America.

    Fear makes people think, say, and do stupid things

  3. John Marius Nelson 2019-05-11

    So what’s wrong with good old American numbers, like roman numerals. We don’t need no stinkin Ay-Rab numbers. Just my II cents worth.

  4. Super Sweet 2019-05-11

    I wonder what the response would be to teaching French, Spanish, German or other foreign language?

  5. Vicki L Garcia 2019-05-11

    This kind of nonsense is getting out of control…just WHAT do they think we’ve been using all these years????

  6. Buckobear 2019-05-11

    This sounds like a re-run of You Bet Your Life. Groucho always had a “consolation prize” question. What color is an orange? Who’s buried …? How long is a ten-foot pole.
    I’m afraid that many members of our state of North Missisippiota would fail.
    They definately are also incapable of driving: To go forward choose “D,” to go backwards choose “R.”

  7. Phil 2019-05-11

    As a math teacher who shares some of the history of mathematics, this is nothing short of FANTASTIC! I’d feel ashamed about the lack of knowledge of our number system development, but I’m too busy laughing…lol!

  8. Debbo 2019-05-11


  9. Tove 2019-05-11

    well, it DOES explain the adverse reaction to science…

  10. Dan Goodwin 2019-05-11

    Roman numerals eh, you crafty devil!

  11. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2019-05-12

    I saw a poll about twenty years ago – that my guess is still most likely relevant or indicative – which stated 76% of the respondents didn’t think a suspect should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

    Unknowingly, I think it is fair to say that such respondents were advocates of Roman law and perhaps Roman numerals as well…

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-12

    Kal Lis, that sort of branding toward ignorance and fear lies at the base of the corporate-fascist effort to make us think that responding to climate change is a socialist plot. By playing to ignorance and fear, our Trumpist corporate overlords make rednecks feel macho for standing in the way of intelligent policymakers who are trying to save the planet.

    See also Don Kopp’s risible resolution in 2010 denying that climate change exists (based in part on a dubious claim about 31,000 “scientists” signing a petition denying climate change evidence) and celebrating carbon dioxide as “the gas of life.” Our current Governor, Kristi Noem, was in the House with Don Kopp when he proposed 2010 HCR 1009, and she voted for the resolution in its original absurd form.

  13. Richard Schriever 2019-05-12

    The Roman Empire never “died”. You’ve been taught a lie all these years. The Roman Empire simply has sort of “morphed” or transitioned from a traditional nation or empire to a more ethereal form – The Roman Catholic Church – which is the wealthiest of all organizations on Earth and reaches into every backwardly organized country. It was the originator of the concept of globalization as a new form of governing. Those poor little nations and their local concerns – let them fool themselves onto believing they are the ultimate.

    I think this whole adaptation of the Arabic Numbers thing is simply part of the “allowed” delusion of national independence.

    There – there’s my crazy theory for the day.

  14. Robert English 2019-05-12

    Roman numerals are a popeist plot to take over our financial cistern.

  15. Porter Lansing 2019-05-12

    These are the people that claim to know what socialism is? Backwater bigots!
    ~ also … The dihydrogen monoxide parody involves calling water by the unfamiliar chemical name “dihydrogen monoxide”, or “hydroxylic acid” in some cases, and listing some of water’s well-known effects in a particularly alarming manner, such as accelerating corrosion and causing suffocation. :0)

  16. Donald Pay 2019-05-12

    That 57 percent are probably the same folks who approve of the job Trump is doing. Hillary was partly right: they ARE deplorable, but they also have nulla IQ. There is no Roman numeral for zero.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-12

    The lack of a zero is a serious shortcoming of Roman numerals, especially if we’re going to discuss the intelligence and/or intellectual honesty of Trump voters.

  18. Francis Schaffer 2019-05-13

    Who is buried in Grant’s tomb? The obvious answer is General U. S. Grant. The complete answer his Grant and his wife. Another one, which weighs more a pound of gold or a pound of hamburger? The simple answer is they weigh the same, also incorrect. They are weighed in different systems of measure one avoirdupois and the other troy. So obvious isn’t always accurate or complete. The law for the metric system to be the standard of weights and measures was passed in 1866. I am full of useless trivia, I apologize for this.

  19. Neil Chiavaroli 2019-05-13

    I’m probably biased being Italian but I think Roman numerals are the way to go

  20. Wayne B. 2019-05-13

    Well, which Arabic Numeral system did the Brookings Register mean?

    Western Arabic?
    Eastern Arabic?

    Looking at the Brookings Register, I don’t think they have that explanation text to disambiguate the question available prior to submitting your vote.

  21. Debbo 2019-05-13

    Francis, I like to call myself A Font of Useless Knowledge. I kill at Jeopardy!, except math and Shakespeare categories. I never liked the Bard.

    Anyway, it’s fun, but I try not to get obnoxious about it. Sometimes I fail. 😉

  22. Debbo 2019-05-13

    Speaking of Useless, Wayne, I worked with a Pakistani woman who spoke Urdu. Such a lovely sounding language, very soft. They have no “v” sound, so she lived in Rapid City, Chapel Walley neighborhood.

  23. John Kesich 2019-05-14

    Of course they should be taught…
    just rename them freedom numerals.

  24. jerry 2019-05-14

    Mr. Schaeffer, what is the speed of dark? On the same line, what is a day without sunshine?

  25. Joe 2019-05-14

    I think it’s pretty obvious that they didn’t know the term referred to the numerical system that we currently use or perhaps they read it quickly and were thinking of Arabic writing instead. Either way, they didn’t see it as a good use of time, because they saw it as having limited utility in students’ adult lives. Sometimes, the innocent explanation is actually the right one.

  26. thomas horn 2019-08-26

    Most kids have a hard enough time with regular math.teach it so it will remain with them for a lifetime. Stick to basic math

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