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So this particular researcher asked a member of the Suya tribe what was the correct answer to the following numerical problems: If you had 10 fish and gave away three fish, how many would you have?
The Suya answered without hesitation and as though the researcher were a bit dull-witted to have even asked the question.
As anybody in the village could tell you, the answer, of course, is 13.
Minus equals plus
This was how he worked it out. In the Suya tradition, whenever you give something away to someone else, the recipient pays you back double. So if he gave three fish to his brother, he said, his brother would have to give him back two times three fish, or six. So added to his 10 original fish he would first have 16 fish.
Once he deducted the three fish he originally gave his brother, he would have a net increase of three, or 13.
So, 10-3 = 7 in Western mathematics transforms into 10 + (2×3) – 3 = 13 in Suya mathematics.
In fact, the native was dismayed at the American version of the equation. He does not view giving away as equivalent to subtraction. He finds the entire notion of it abhorrent.
“Why is it that ‘giving’ is always seen as a ‘minus’ for white people?’ another member of the tribe asked. “I know that you want me to use the minus sign instead of the plus sign, but I don’t understand why.”
Originally posted by OutKast Searcher
A lot of people like to say that math is a universal language or a universal concept...and I honestly don't think it is. I think the only concept in "math" that is universal is that if you stick to the rules you create...everything will work out correctly.
Than how do you explain that the entire universe can be "understood" using mathematical equations?
An intelligent scientist once said something like:
The mere fact that we can understand the universe in terms of math is itself quite profound.