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This report is taken from PN Review 98, Volume 20 Number 6, July - August 1994.

Letter from Tokyo Penny McCarthy

I have a hunch that if educational psychologists could find out what exactly it is about my thought's framework that prevents mathematical concepts being congruent with it, they could apply that knowledge and solve the innumeracy problems of UK school-children at a stroke. Why can I subtract reasonably happily from the teens to single digits, but only with anxiety past a multiple of ten between twenty and ninety? And with a feeling of something like sacrilege past a hundred, mixed with vertigo (the overhang from 100 to 99 is too big, and working downhill is worse than going up).

In the same way, I wonder if understanding my resistances to certain aspects of things Japanese could help me or anyone appreciate features of western mentality that are usually unamenable to self-analysis. I'm sure measurement by resistance crops up in physics too, but because of my weakness in maths I did not get very far with this subject. But again, the sticking point should be revealing to someone who wants to know how (not) to teach it. I fell out with the physics teacher who said, 'Light travels in straight lines until you get to A Level.' I thought this was an outrage - epistemologically unsound, and a cover-up of the very imaginative stories of discovery in physics I wanted to hear about, instead of doing those pointless measurements to show (for presumably the millionth time) that the discoverers' results were right.

Comparable sticking points in ...

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