Math is hard!

November 11, 2009 in Math

Via Spontaneous Symmetry, it appears that some people are a bit rusty on their math. The town of Truro, MA recently voted on a proposed zoning measure which required a two-thirds approval to pass. Out of 206 people, 136 voted in favor - just shy of the required two-thirds. Or was it?

The exact count of the vote — 136 to 70 —had town officials hitting their calculators yesterday. The zoning measure needed a two-thirds vote to pass. A calculation by town accountant Trudy Brazil indicated that 136 votes are two-thirds of 206 total votes, said Town Clerk Cynthia Slade.

Brazil said she used the calculation of .66 multiplied by 206 to obtain the number.

But using .6666 — a more accurate version of two-thirds — the affirmative vote needed to be 137 instead of 136, according to an anonymous caller to town hall and to the Times.

Slade said that she called several of her colleagues to see how they calculate a two-thirds vote, and the answer varied widely. In Provincetown, Town Clerk Doug Johnstone uses .66. But Johnstone said he'd never had a close vote where it might matter.

I don't understand what the ambiguity is here. Two-thirds of 206 is unquestionably 137.33... which is quite plainly more than 136. If a two-thirds vote is required, then the bill did not pass. Moreover, using a factor of 0.66 is simply wrong. It's not as if it even saves time - typing "*.66" takes as many keystrokes as "*2/3"!

What more can we say: math is hard!

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