For math academic and proselytizer Dr. Arvind Gupta, the financial meltdown is only the thin edge of the wedge.
“That’s a game,” Gupta said yesterday of stock markets, while sitting a short walk from Bay Street. “The financial system is there to sell you instruments that make them money. And people don’t understand what they’re buying.”
For Gupta, the dearth of everyday math skills in this country is a deeper and more systemic problem.
“If we had more mathematical sophistication, we could reason better about the world around us, whether it’s understanding which cellphone plan to pick or how to build better cars.”
Gupta, 47, teaches computational genomics at B.C.’s Simon Fraser University.
“The truth is, I meet a lot of mathematicians who don’t understand their own finances,” said Gupta.
“Very few of us understand what happened in this economic crisis.”
He quotes studies showing that kids start out loving math — 85 per cent of them say so in Grade 3. By Grade 8, that number has nosedived to 25 per cent.
Gupta believes that has a lot to do with the weak math skills of average adult Canadians.
“You’ve got this whole population who are at this middling level. What do you think happens to kids when they hit (Grade 8)? Their parents are starting to struggle at that level. The teachers aren’t really well versed beyond that level. And so the kids fall off,” Gupta said.