Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Math pupils learn how to drown Turks

TheNews.pl :: Poland behind the headlines - news, business, life

“How would you place Christians and Turks on a sinking ship so that only the latter drowned?”, reads a problem in a math textbook for Poland’s primary school pupils.

“On board a sinking ship there are fifteen Christians and fifteen Turks. In order to save the ship from going to the bottom, half of the crew needs to be thrown overboard. One of the Christians proposes that the whole crew form a circle and every ninth person jump overboard. How should the Christians place themselves so that only the Turks are drowned?”reads a problem, quoted the lay Catholic newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny.

The rather controversial problem appeares in The Mathematical Miniatures for Primary Schools, a manual for second to twelfth grade students who want to participate in the International Mathematical Kangaroo competition. The book was published in 2004 by Aksjomat Publishing House from the northern city of Torun and has already been translated into English, German, French and Russian.

“We did not try to exhort anyone to hate. What mattered to us was the mathematical model – the historical context was irrelevant. In order to solve the problem one needs to be acquainted with principles Maths, not the ways of murdering Turks,” said co-author and publisher of the manual Piotr Nodzynski, naively.

Via Andrew Brown at The Guardian

I'm stunned.

[Image: Philip II (1527-98), King of Spain (1556-98) offers his son or Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto, 1571; By Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (1487-1576) - Museo del Prado Madrid]


Ashleigh Dean said...

Reminds me of the math question from Life is Beautiful--something about being asked to calculate how much money the state would save if all the disabled and mentally handicapped were eliminated. Absolutely vile.

By the way, the answer is C-C-C-C-T-T-T-T-T-C-C-T-C-C-C-T-C-T-T-C-C-T-T-T-C-T-T-C-C-T. Of course the Turks would probably get wise to the plot in the time it would take to painstakingly arrange everyone that way.

Paul Halsall said...

Ashleigh, I am impressed you did the maths. [We say "maths" for "math" over here.]

Ashleigh Dean said...

Not quite math--there was a chart involved. I'm unfortunately not capable of doing anything beyond extremely simple algebra.