The Sorry State of Education in MMXII


Over the weekend I watched an hour-long program on Joe Namath. Namath is best remembered for winning Super Bowl III against the heavily favored Baltimore Colts.

Now we learn that a lot of teenagers (and adults) may not be able to decipher this year’s Super Bowl number. III is easy. But what about XLVI?

Roman numerals went out of favor a long time ago because they were not useful for higher mathematics. Try dividing MMXII by CIV without converting the letters into numbers. In case you are stumped its 2012 divided by 104 equals IXX.III IV VI I V III VIII IV VI V III VIII V.

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Even so, Roman numerals were taught as way to connect modern youths with classic literature.

The following is from “Deciphering the Super Bowl: XLVI Is Greek to Kids”:

Kids LOL and OMG each other all the livelong day, but ask them to decipher the XLVI of this year’s Super Bowl and you might as well be talking Greek.

They may know what X means, or V and I, but Roman numerals beyond the basics have largely gone the way of cursive and penmanship as a subject in the nation’s schools.

Students in high school and junior high get a taste of the Roman system during Latin (where Latin is still taught, anyway). And they learn a few Roman numerals in history class when they study the monarchs of Europe.

Test your kids and yourself tonight. Here are the basics:

I = 1

II = 2

III = 3

IV = 4

Rule: When a lesser number precedes a larger number, subtract the lesser number from the larger number (5 – 1 = 4). Sometimes you’ll see a clock face with IIII for 4. Some have speculated, for example Isaac Asimov, that IV was avoided because it was the first two letters of the Roman God Jupiter (IVPPITER).

VI = 6

Rule: When a lesser number follows a larger number, the lesser number is added to the larger number (5 + 1 = 6).

VII = 7

VIII = 8

IX = 9

X = 10

L = 50

C = 100

D = 500

M = 1000.

In addition to the Super Bowl, Roman Numerals are also used for the Olympics, held every four years since 1896 with cancellations because of war in 1940 and 1944. The 2012 Olympics will be held in London this year and are officially known as the “Games of the XXX Olympiad.” This will be London’s second hosting. The city hosted the XIV Olympiad in 1948. That’s 30 (XXX) and 14 (XIV).

Linsey Knerl, who is homeschooling her five children in Tekamah, Neb., is teaching them Roman numerals, showing her oldest — who is 13 — how to decipher chapter numbers while reading “Oliver Twist.”

“I realize that it may not seem to be the most culturally relevant thing you can teach kids these days,” she said. “But if kids can get what LOL and ROFL mean, things like XXII should be a piece of cake.”

Next it will be on to learning —  —  .-.  … .    -.-.  —  -..  .  .-.-.- 1

  1. Morse Code. []
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