[Numeracy 187] Re: The double negative language-math link

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steinkedb at q.com steinkedb at q.com
Tue Feb 16 17:52:40 EST 2010

I see a problem with using English grammer as a model for math syntax.

We must remember that not all our students are native English speakers. What
we consider a "double-negative means a positive" in English is a simple
negative in Spanish. A literal translation of a simple negative sentence in
Spanish (No quiero nada.) looks like a "double-negative" in English (I don't
want nothing.) We must be careful that students take in the information in
the way that we intend it.

Dorothea Steinke
-----Original Message-----
From: numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov]On
Behalf Of Carol King
Sent: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2:27 PM
To: The Math and Numeracy Discussion List
Subject: [Numeracy 186] Re: The double negative language-math link

The rule in teaching English is that a double negative statement creates a
positive statement, so, for a few students, it makes sense to hang my hat on
the hook they have. Since they know in English " to not not go" creates a
positive statement that you are going (and must be rewritten as such) it
bridges their mental block about double negatives in math changing to
addition problems.

Carol King

Fernley Adult Education

cking at lyon.k12.nv.us


From: numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov] On
Behalf Of Michael Gyori
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 2010 8:58 AM
To: The Math and Numeracy Discussion List
Subject: [Numeracy 148] The double negative language-math link

Greetings everone,

Carol King stated,

If I am taking out taking out 8, as in 10 - (-8), then I must be adding

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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