Complex Numbers, Pythagoras, and Protractors

Honestly, you could hardly make it up. In the last week or ten days you may have spotted some or all of these:

***   Simon Jenkins in The Guardian pontificates about maths teaching.   Among his assertions is that a primary school complains that a child he knows hasn’t mastered complex numbers.   It’s not clear how much Jenkins knows about complex numbers but it doesn’t seem to extend to knowing the difference between complex numbers and fractions, or possibly decimals.

***   Then there’s a YouTube clip of Piers Morgan smugly telling us that he understands Pythagoras Theorem and can recite it as 3.147….

***   And yesterday I read that a golfer is being investigated for using his protractor – creatively, he’s apparently invented a way of using his protractor to measure distances rather than the usual angles. We then get a helpful clue that his protractor is also called a “compass” – we also learn that sailors have been using them a long time. And in further clarification we learn that the device has a third manifestation as a pair of “split dividers”.   Actually, it was pretty obvious to all of us that the protractor / compass was in fact a pair of dividers all along – but not a single member in the newspaper’s editorial and production team knows what a protractor looks like, let alone what one does.








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