[Numeracy 148] The double negative language-math link
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Thu Feb 11 11:57:58 EST 2010
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Carol King stated,
If I am taking out taking out 8, as in 10 – (-8), then I must be adding it.
I read it a few times and find myself perplexed by it, as much as I believe I understand its intent.
"Taking out" is a positive statement and regardless of how many times you say it, it remains positive, and what changes - perhaps, depending on how I choose to understand it - is the number of times you (***yes***) "take out." If I take out once, I have 2 left, and I cannot take take out again, because I can't take another 8 out of 2.
Alternatively, I can understand the meaning to be that I am "taking out" the taking out of 8, which then could leave me to believe that I wanted to take out, then decided against it, such that I end up doing nothing. I still have 10.
The problem, as I see it, is that we are getting into integers. Negative values have no meaning in the world of the concrete, because once you have 0 left, that's it. On the other hand, if we deal with negative balances (such as when you overdraw your balance in your checking account), you create meaning because it can and does happen. In other words, negatives carry meaning in mathematical, but not physical (reality) terms...
Michael A. Gyori
Maui International Language School
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