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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Numbed by Numbers

I counted. It's 40 steps from the street below to my third floor flat. Mount Everest is 8,848 meters high. I remember. The population of India is more than a billion. I don't know the exact figure. Nobody does. Do these numbers really matter? If I miscalculated the height of the tallest peak by a metre or two, would the polar caps melt? We may need to know the value of pi in geometry, 3.14159265358979323846... or more simply 22/7 (which my mathematician friend tells me is not the real value but a mere approximate). But otherwise are figures so important? And I'm not talking of the feminine type.

We often misunderstand information for knowledge. Kids and wannabe civil servants mug up the facts and figures. They might be helpful in passing exams. Because our examination system merely evaluates the degree of information. Information leads to knowledge, but not necessarily.

Do we then need to unnecessarily overburden the kids only with information and take the fun out of their childhood? The other day the security guard at our office was arguing with someone who claimed that a mouse could run faster than a speeding train and for 1600 kilometres at a stretch. That someone claimed that he had read about it in a book. I don't know which book was that and what was it that he had read. He had some information, but knowledge would have crosschecked that.

In this era of information technology, all that we need to know requires only the punching of the right keywords.

What, where, when, who and how is important, but it is the 'why' which results in the preceding four and hence the most important. Yet the most neglected.


Rita said...

I agree with you. This is one of the many reasons that made me hate history in school. 'The Taj Mahal is made of white marble, with an are of xyz sq. kms. The height of the plinth is such and such'. Phew!! Too much. It was only during my post grad days that I began taking an interest in the subject as it is closely related to mine.

anthony said...

Numbers... i can't remember anything to do with numbers, birthdays, anniversaries, phone numbers and those formulas.. I can solve problems, have been a very good solver but I always end up with very lousy marks in maths..mostly because i end up deriving most of the formulae in the Exam hall ;-).. Ah how I love open book math exams... and how I love google. Does it really matter? Numbers.. unless u are into the manufacturing of life saving drugs or launching of rocket.. I guess numbers rae just figures u don't need to litter ur mind with...

Anonymous said...

"...The other day the security guard at our office was arguing with...". Hmmm.. this and your earlier post suggest that ur becoming a compulsive eavesdropper.

Abaniko said...

Info are not the be-all and end-all in education. They're there to aid thinking. School should teach kids not to memorize but to think, and think well.

jimstoic said...

Nice photography.