Thursday, 14 October 2010

Rachel, the word is 'multiply'!

I admit it, I watch Countdown. Quite often, to be honest, when I'm home around cup-of-tea time.

I'm a great admirer of young Rachel Riley – her mathematical brain, of course – and if she really does come up with some of her clever solutions to the number puzzles in the time available, then I'm impressed.

Now, it may surprise you to know that I don't actually mind the way she abuses mathematical notation when she jots down her mental processes. She is not doing formal mathematics, so what she writes down is just a way of recording what she is thinking. I know there are many maths educators who will go through the ceiling at something like this being allowed on national television, just at the time when some of the kids are getting home from school:

25 x 7 = 175 + 2 = 177

The mathematical 'error' here that people get steamed up about is that the equals sign should only connect things that are equal and 25 x 7 is not equal to 175 + 2. But when Miss Riley does this she adds a spoken commentary, which makes absolutely clear what she means – and what she jots down is a convenient way of recording that she multiplied 25 by 7, got 175 and then added 2 to this to make 177.

You see, I'm a reasonable man and not one to make an unnecessary fuss. But, I do get very irritated by something else that Miss Riley does: using the word 'times' as a verb! When she says something like 'twenty-five timesed by seven', or, 'times it by 7' – oh, that really does grate. Rachel, the word is 'multiply'! Please, please, please let's not use the word 'times' as a verb!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you! "Timesing" has been more than a minor annoyance of mine ever since I stepped into the classroom, shocked to not only hear students saying it but sometimes other teachers. In fact, I eventually posted this with my classroom rules at the front of my classroom:

    "Don't 'plus' things together. Don't 'times' things together. Know when to say 'add' and 'multiply' so you won't sound like a dork."