Why Are Mathematicians So Bad at Arithmetic?

Thomas Mann once said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

I believe the same applies to mathematicians doing arithmetic.


It’s a running joke among mathematicians that they’re bad with numbers. This confuses outsiders, like hearing surgeons plead clumsiness, or poets claim illiteracy, or Rick Astley confess that actually he is going to give you up and let you down, maybe even run around and desert you.

Does it come from some false modesty? A skewed sense of humor?

No, some mathematicians insist: it’s really true, we’re bad at arithmetic.


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