Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mathematical Confusion

For some years after the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM), a long time ago, I was teaching maths and science in a private school. And apart from my day job, I also went from house to house in the evenings on my motorbike to give private tuition for the same subjects.

Those days, maths used to be a tough subject, and the majority of students had difficulties to conquer the subject. The lower levels of maths were still OK, but when it came to algebra and trigonometry, calculus etc, many students would be in trouble. So in a way, people like me used to be sought-after those good old days.

That was the situation over 20 years ago. I'm aware of the many changes in the Malaysian education system since my day in school—the subject had been taught in Malay, and then in English for some years, and then now coming back full circle to be taught in Malay again. But this should not be alarming; our politicians have it all covered.

In spite of those changes, one thing did not really change—some people are still awful in maths. And what's more, they are "high-ranking people" too! Check out the following video clip, which—just in case you're wondering—is not an extract of a comedy show. It is an actual, serious, event, mind you!

OK, now let's do a bit of elementary calculations (and try to refrain from reaching for that calculator).

Total number of voters = 49,750

Half of that amount = 24,875

Amount required to secure a simple majority in the election = 24,875 + 1 = 24,876

Number of Malay voters = 32,000

And 70% of that is (70/100) x 32,000 = 22,400

If 70% of the Malay voters vote for BN, and none of the Chinese and Indians vote for BN (since BN does not need the Chinese and Indian votes), BN would get 22,400 votes, assuming no spoilt votes. That is still 2,476 votes (24,876 - 22,400) short of a guaranteed majority.

It would be very interesting to know how would the speaker respond if the Chinese and Indians were to gang up against BN and field only one candidate to represent the Chinese and Indians. Perhaps then he would hope for 2,477 spoilt votes, and all of those are of the Chinese and Indian voters.

The moral of the story, folks, is that maths is important not only for the scientists and accountants. Even politicians also need to know at least a bit of high-school maths.


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