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The hermaphrodites of Maple Street, or why Americans fail math

Can you see what is wrong with this picture?

bad third-grade math worksheet

Either the children in Mrs. Lamb's class are intergendered or somebody writing third-grade math texts flunked Venn diagrams.

This came home with my daughter's schoolwork yesterday. I'm not sure what to do. Do I show her why it's wrong? Do I take it up with her teacher? Or do I let it go by and hope that they haven't permanently warped her understanding of set theory?

kids 2005.03.23 link


I'm pretty sure this isn't a big deal...let it go.

Anonymous • 2005.03.24
Awesome. It may be too early for a frank and complete discussion of why this Venn diagram can be completely possible depending on who you know and a less-than-binary view of gender, I would bring it up with the teacher just so they're aware of it.

Of course, you should expect a shrug and a sad smile, but at least then you've gone down swinging.

Which is not a comment on the transvestites on Maple St. Merely a turn of phrase.

Oddmonster [oddmonster cxe madlinguist punkto com] • 2005.03.24
Explain it to the girls and take it up with their teacher. If he/she knows their stuff they should recognise the problem and deal with it. Otherwise you have bigger problems at hand.

Vanlal [shamblyhermit cxe yahoo punkto co punkto uk] • 2005.03.24
Explain it to the girls, but then go straight to the publisher, too. Get the name of the textbook and send notice of the error to someone in editorial.

Being in textbook publishing myself, I can tell you that mistakes like this happen all the time. But for outraged and/or curious and/or bemused readers coming forth with corrections we would go on reprinting the mistakes over and over for 8 or 10 years. If this is from even a halfway legitimate publisher, it will be corrected in the next printing. They may even issue an erratum sheet to people who have already purchased the book.

Think of all the young minds you'd be saving...

cinque [cinque cxe influxhouse punkto com] • 2005.03.24
Oh, explain it to the kid, the teacher, and the publisher by all means!

badgerbag [lizzard cxe bookmaniac punkto net] • 2005.03.24
** because it's never too early to learn the peculiar pleasure of correcting teachers and textbooks - a healthy distrust of printed authority.

badgerbag [lizzard cxe bookmaniac punkto net] • 2005.03.24
Then again, maybe the diagram is not a mistake at all. Maybe it's just a typo; the title should read "Two Intersex Sets."

Anonymous • 2005.03.25
This quote is great "I'm pretty sure this isn't a big deal...let it go."

Yeah, who cares? Education doesn't matter anyhow. Don't rock the boat.

Either that or find another school.

Steve [steve cxe steve punkto com] • 2005.03.25
Thanks for all the tips. I think I will try to track down the publisher.

I want to say, in case anyone from my daughter's school reads this, that I don't blame the school or her teacher: I'm sure they know better and this one just slipped by them. Given all the other things the teachers have to do, I wouldn't expect them to go over each and every handout before it reaches the kids.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2005.03.25
Interesting school exercise...I don't have little ones so it is interesting to see what goes on in those hallowed halls.

At the risk of putting myself out there, what exactly is your concern with the exercise - I take it you and other commenters are referring to the assumptions of the characters' gender based on their appearance? I can understand that. Just wondering if I am missing a greater hegemonic reference...

k8 [k8kimberley cxe shaw punkto ca] • 2005.03.28
K8, sorry if I was less than clear. I would have no problem with it if it were an exercise in gender studies (although pigs will certainly fly before that ever happens in the Texas public schools!).

The problem is that the math is wrong. Barring hermaphroditism, there simply is no intersection between a set of girls and a set of boys. As stated, the two circles cannot overlap. Whoever drew this up did not have a third-grade understanding of Venn diagrams.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2005.03.28
so you did you tell the girls?

wait a minute.... I don't have a third grade understanding of Venn diagrams!

we're studying intersecting sets, right?
it would have to be CHILDREN on Maple, Children in Mrs. Lamb's, and children in Mr. Roark's... yes? the hell?????

chrischappell • 2005.03.29
I think the most important thing is to explain it to your children. Mostly only has a way to show, that you must learn to question everything that is presented to you, and yes including things that the school and your teachers and your parents give you.

elenamary [elenamary cxe hotmail punkto com] • 2005.03.30
The Joycean in me turns the gender confusion into "two interesting sex"... to wit, there was a transgender film fest here in Toronto a few years back called, brilliantly, "counting past two" ;-)

Mel [chandrasutra cxe gmail punkto com] • 2005.04.07
there's nothing wrong with the problem.the center circle only means that those children belong to mrs lamb's class, but not all the children on the block do! Ok! Understand? Good!

genius • 2005.04.19 provides a simple explanation. I think the point here is children at this age still rely on pictures (characteristics) to learn how to count, some may confuse the boy (which is only presented as such with short hair) for a girl (they too can have short hair) the feminine facial features, i.e. softer eyes, tiny nose, thin lips are commonly recognized as female. Which makes the problem a mis-represented math question because the children in the center circle are not specifically gender identified like the children are in their counterparts, leaving the student to base his/her answer on his/her visual understanding of boy/girl characteristic differences. It can be misconstrued by anyone, not just a child, but especially by a child therefore facilitating an incorrect answer to the math question. For that reason alone, it merits the attention of the teacher and the publisher. Your probably not the first one to notice it, but likely the first to bring it to their attention! I feel sick when people say "turn the other cheek", because they think they shouldn't question what our children are being taught in school. If it was an apple that looked a little like an orange, would you just automatically assume your kid didn't get the question right because he didn't know what an apple looks like?

Venn diagrams explained • 2005.04.21
Whaddya mean "nothing wrong"? Set
A is defined to contain nothing but
girls and clearly(?) has a boy. Set
C is defined to contain nothing but
girls yet clearly(?) has a girl. The
intersection is (as Prentiss said) clearly non-existent except by supposing the two in the diagram intersection are of both sexes.

Ralph [r punkto ewton cxe att punkto net] • 2005.04.22
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