Monthly Archives: March 2016

Listening to Hatzidakis, Oi geitonies to fengariou chronion o pothos

Mathematician John Allen Paulos is a floorcloth, that is, mathematician Kees Hoogland must think so. Paulos can be abused at will, shaped into desired topological form, and passed on as true, and mop up the dirt and bloodstains that you have caused.

  • Paulos (1988) Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences perhaps even created the colloquial term “numeracy” as shorthand for quantitative competence, in parallel to literacy, the ability to read and write. The term may be a meme, for there now is the scholarly journal Numeracy, launced in 2008, and the term is (ab-) used in the 21st century skills hype. Observe that Paulos also studied English, and that his popular books are not mathematical books but literary exercises to bridge the gap between alpha and beta worlds (C.P. Snow “The two cultures”). Paulos agrees that numbers are only part of it, and that a better umbrella is reasoning (but logos is calculation too).
  • Hoogland abuses Paulos’s books to defend the failed and fraudulent “realistic mathematics education” (RME) by Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990). RME denounces traditional methods of mathematics education as “cyphering” or drilling devoid of understanding. The cyphers are the digits 0,1, 2, …, 9 that are used to denote the numbers. Teaching English and understanding Shakespeare would be denounced as “lettering”. Denouncing traditional didactics in this manner, would leave only RME for proper teaching of mathematics, which would generate numeracy. Obviously, Paulos has presented his books for a general readership, and they were not intended as scholarly research within evidence based education, and to look into issues of RME or traditional didactics. Obviously, Hoogland misrepresents the purpose and scope of Paulos’s books. Obviously, he abuses those to fit his own purposes.

Hoogland’s abuse of John Allen Paulos can be found in Euclides 91 no 5, March 2016, pag 19. (Yes, this journal exists for 91 years.) For the title of his column he employs a Dutch neologism “gecijferdheid” rather than “genummerdheid” to translate “numeracy”. This is a crooked use of terms. The use of cyphers to denounce criticism of RME apparently overloads the one-track mind so that also the fine objective of quantitative competence is phrased in terms of cyphers. Check out his RME website with the same label.

RME’s abuse of traditional mathematics education by denouncing it as “cyphering” can also be found in other RME discussions. See this discussion (in Dutch) of a report by Compagnie & Keijzer 2015 about “arithmetic co-ordinators” for elementary schools.

A dirty math war with stonewalling criticism

I have informed Hoogland about my criticism in the past, he doesn’t reply and just continues preaching the RME gospel while neglecting the failure and fraud of RME.

In the article in Euclides, March 2016, Hoogland neglects the discussion of the last 15 years, and states with big blue innocent eyes, recruting Paulos for the cause of RME:

“What has happened in the last fifteen years with our education in arithmetic and mathematics? When has such a functional and inspiring view deteriorated into the call for sums on fractions, long division, and arithmetic tests without calculator? My plea is: read that new book by Paulos (…)”

(Dutch: “Wat is er toch de afgelopen vijftien jaar gebeurd in ons reken- en wiskundeonderwijs? Wanneer is zo’n functionele en inspirerende kijk op rekenen en wiskunde afgegleden naar de roep om breukensommetjes, staartdelingen en verplichte rekentoetsen zonder rekenmachine? Mijn pleidooi is: lezen dat nieuwe boek van Paulos (…)”)

Dutch is a language sink

Paulos’s books are translated from English into Dutch: which Dutch translators find easy to do, while it is easy money for publishers to piggy-back on an international bestseller. Conversely, Dutch texts are hardly translated into English: which translators find hard to do. Dutch is a language sink. How would John Allen Paulos ever discover that his work is abused here in Holland, if I were to discuss this in Dutch ?

Grawe on Paulos

Paul Grawe (2015) Mathematics and Humor: John Allen Paulos and the Numeracy Crusade, Numeracy 8 no 2 article 11, is advised reading.

  • It is an eye-opener that Shakespeare is nicknamed “gentle”.
  • Mathematicians better work on their sense of humour.
  • Teachers will enjoy the suggestions for teaching (final pages).
The Bush, Gore and Nader election in 2000

Paulos may be the first mathematician who offered apologies, see Salon November 29 2015, for his role in the Presidential Elections of 2000 between Bush, Gore and Nader (and many others).

Paulos reduces his position to that of the butterfly in Chaos Theory, but he is still a sentient butterfly, and is aware of the causal chain. He also sees the consequences: while Bush started the Iraq war on false pretense and created the conditions for current terrorism, Gore would have improved the environment and tried to avert Climate Change.

Apparently, Paulos doesn’t quite understand voting theory yet, and hence doesn’t see yet the overall guilt and incompetence of mathematicians for the disinformation that they generate on voting theory. When Paulos really feels guilty, then I advise him to study my book Voting Theory for Democracy (VTFD) and help repair the damage.

Dutch readers can look here. A synopsis is that all my papers since 1990 have been hit by censorship by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB). Had the 1990 paper on voting been published normally, the USA might have heard about it and revised the Presidential elections, or at least Nader might have retracted sooner, or there might have been a deal between Gore and Nader on electoral reform (like Cameron and Clegg did in the UK, but Clegg bodged up), and so on. Dutch voting theorist Harrie de Swart was in error in 2001, 2008 and 2016 again. In the USA, voting theorist Donald Saari is president of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS) in 2014-2016, but it would have been better in 2001 when he had specified his thoughts about VTFD. How will Saari treat my comments on the US Common Core State Standards on Mathematics (CCCSS-M) ? The mathematical mindset is a problem all-over, not only in Holland.


In the AMS Notices last February, Jason Zimba discussed potential ways for research mathematicians (RM) to contribute to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M).

I suppose, and would rather advise, that he writes elsewhere for such opportunities for engineers with an open eye for empirics. A key problem in say the last 5000 years is that mathematicians are trained on abstraction while education is an empirical issue. When RM meet in class with real life students (perhaps math students excluded by selection) then they have cognitive dissonance, and fall back to tradition, which tradition has not come about with a focus on didactics.

Also professor Hung-Hsi Wu wants RM to get involved. But Wu denotes three-and-a-third as 3⅓ but this is like multiplication, like 3a or 3 km, and the better notation is 3 + ⅓. The best notation is 3 + 3^H, with H = -1 as a mathematical constant. Obviously H represents a half turn, like i is a quarter turn. The fraction bar causes so-called “math” that isn’t real math but a burden from a particular notation that isn’t always useful. Note also that “third” refers to ordinal numbers, so that kids must wonder what ordinals have to do with fractions. Better say that ⅓ is “per three”.

This is just one example of a long list. See my books A child wants nice and no mean numbers (2015) and Elegance with Substance (2009, 2015), with PDFs on my website. Please note that these are just analyses and that empirical design still has a long road to go.

This also shows that there is a distinction between “math”, classical math (“math” corrected) and neoclassical math (improving the latter). Let math teachers grow aware of this distinction. The CCSS-M is very important as a point of reference, but the curriculum better be re-engineered instead of implemented. It makes little sense to first invest millions in software for 3⅓ when this later must be reprogrammed into 3 + 3^H (and everywhere).

The warning about cognitive dissonance by RM is of paradigmatic importance. The disastrous math ed reform movement was inspired by abstract thinking RM too, with a key role for Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990), witness the ICMI award to his name. It appears that Freudenthal appropriated but misunderstood ideas by teacher Pierre van Hiele (1909-2010), see my paper Pierre van Hiele, David Tall and Hans Freudenthal: Getting the facts right. Freudenthal for example would give kids the expression 3 + ⅓ and then wanted them to play a bit and discover themselves that 3⅓ would be proper math. Obviously kids are able to create crooked expressions, but there is no guarantee that they find precisely the crooked ones that non-didactic mathematicians invented in the past, and neither that this is proper math.

A related problem are psychometricians who test on 3⅓. One expects that psychometricians have an interest in empirics and are mathematically competent, but it turns out that they may have no interest in didactics of mathematics, so that TIMSS and PISA scores can be invalid.

Holland is not so tolerant since the oil crisis of 1973 and the “Dutch Disease”. Dutch RM have a disastrous role, nowadays also targeted at my work when I express criticism. I must warn that there is a dirty math ed war in Holland. Readers cannot trust that my findings will percolate with impartial treatment in newsletters, journals, reviews, math ed conferences like ICMI, institutional reports, and what have you.

In the AMS Notices of April 2016, I was struck by the January Letter by Sheldon Axler about Chandler Davis and his article The Purge about 1954, my year of birth. See my website and weblog for the advice to boycott Holland till censorship of science since 1990 by the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) has been lifted. This is about econometrics and not didactics of mathematics, but still affects my professional position and (dis-) respect of treatment. What this censorship is about should become clear when it has been lifted, if I haven’t become too old by then.

(PM. This weblog entry is my comment on the Notices page for February 2016.)

Common Core State Standards (USA)

Common Core State Standards (USA)

On the filos-nl server last January, F.A. Muller invited: “Everyone is welcome.” (Translation from: “Iedereen is welkom.”) This concerned a colloquium on February 19 2016 for the NWO-project “From criticism to methodology”.

  • On February 23 2016, Muller confirms this open access, and only advises me not to waste my time on this because I am no historian.
  • On March 17 2016, cc others, Muller writes me: “The gatherings (…) are a closed shop (…).” (Translated from Dutch.) This misrepresents and is a deliberate lie.

The events are documented here:  The earlier case w.r.t. H.C.M. de Swart was reported about in the earlier weblog entry, and (A) file with emails, and (B) its sequel. Now there is (C) this document, that contains the listserver message and the selected emails by De Swart and Muller.

On the sequence of events:

  • In the letter of February 23, the advice and referral to my background of not being a historian is uncalled for. It misrepresents my historical interest and the relevance of history for my research on Mannoury, see here and here. Such a suggestion might create a bias amongst others, and prime a reflex. Perhaps I have a question at one point, and someone might react: “What are you saying and doing here ? You are not a historian.” (no quote). Muller doesn’t cc his email to others, but De Swart’s behaviour must be explained, and apparently Muller regards this as an issue.
  • In the letter of February 23, Muller does not fully correct the breach by H.C.M. de Swart, and he actually provides a form of excuse for De Swart that he might also have thought about my not-being-a-historian. The latter is only a suggestion and Muller doesn’t clarify whether he has tried to discover the true reasoning behind the breach by De Swart.
  • Whence I have submitted Muller’s response of February 23 to the integrity officer of Erasmus University, Patrick Groenen, as well. Apparently the email of March 17 is a result of subsequent talks.
  • In my opinion Groenen has handled the case badly. He should have first discussed the results of the talks with me, before allowing for next steps. Groenen concentrated on the fast conclusion “mediation is not possible” and forgot about the breach of integrity. Groenen apparently didn’t see that the switch from February 23 to March 17 is a deliberate lie.

Thus, from the frying pan into the fire:

  • Muller breaches integrity of science too.
  • Muller implicates project team researchers dr Gerard Alberts (UvA), dr Paul van Ulsen (UvA) and PhD-student Mireille Kirkels (EUR) too.
  • Muller implicates guest Henk Visser too (co-author with De Groot on Forum Theory – and presently it is at issue who belongs to the forum on Mannoury).
  • Muller suggests that I have been “impolite”, without stating what specifically, and gives that as an argument for not inviting me to the closed shop gathering. He is accuser, judge and executioner, without being specific and presenting evidence.
  • The integrity officer and/or secretary have handled this disastrously.


The colloquia are open for everyone Lie: “a closed shop” Ad hominem
Twice in 2015 on the listserver
2016-01 listserver about 2016-02-19
Two emails: Van Ulsen and Kirkels, see (A)
H.C.M. de Swart, 2016-02-18 first email (A)
De Swart, 2016-02-18 second email (A)
F.A. Muller, 2016-02-23, see (B) Cover-up of what De Swart is doing Advice against attendance (B)
Muller, 2016-03-17 You are not invited because of “shown rudeness just now”

Given President’s Obama’s visit to Cuba today, it is quite fitting that wikipedia illustrates the saying in the following manner.

Wikipedia illustration for "Out of the frying pan into the fire"

Wikipedia illustration for “Out of the frying pan into the fire”

Historians of science study the genesis and development of ideas, e.g. the interaction between scientists via the letters between authors. Van Ulsen (2001:1) reports:

“Beth operated at the difficult boundary of disciplines. Philosophers denounced him as mathematician and logician, while the mathematicians and logicians regarded him, neither in a positive sense, as a philosopher.”

My documentation w.r.t. my own results serves this purpose as well. When I protest against maltreatment of my work then this does not imply that I lack good judgement or would be impolite.

On February 18 & 19 prof. dr. H.C.M. (Harrie) de Swart (EUR) (wiki) (born 1944, age 71) blocked my attendance at some colloquia on the history of science, first with the argument that these would be a “closed shop”, subsequently, when this was shown to be untrue, with refusing to give any kind of argument. This amounts to a breach of the integrity of science. The following is a summary of the case. The email exchanges with a discussion in English are here: part 1 with De Swart and part 2 with prof. dr. F.A. (Fred) Muller, the project manager.

NWO projects 2012-2017 on Mannoury, Beth, Heyting and Van Dantzig

There are (1) a NWO-project 360-20-301 running in 2012-2016 on Mannoury and philosophy of language and (2) a NWO-project 360-20-300 running in 2012-2017 on Mannoury, Beth, Heyting and Van Dantzig, with a budget of 617,000 euros.

I have an interest in these authors since my student days around 1977. I referred to Heyting in my book “A logic of exceptions” (1981 unpublished, 2007, 2011), Mannoury & Van Dantzig in 2012 (referring to a study by Gerard Alberts), and referred to Mannoury and his students Van Hiele and De Groot on my weblog in 2015. This is a draft paper of February 18 2016 on Mannoury & Van Hiele concerning the overlap of ideas that can be found in their work. (Historians would have to check whether Mannoury and Van Hiele stayed in touch after university.)

I discovered the NWO-projects around New Year 2016. The projects mention manager prof.dr. F.A. Muller and researchers PhD-student Mireille Kirkels (Mannoury), dr. Paul van Ulsen (Beth & Heyting) and dr. Gerard Alberts (Van Dantzig). For my current focus Kirkels and Van Ulsen are the relevant contact persons. They wrote that I was welcome to attend (Kirkels January 11 and Van Ulsen January 13 2016).

I do not know what the official position of De Swart is with respect this NWO-project, other than that he apparently manages an email list for the colloquia. I actually was a bit surprised to see his involvement since the project summary did not mention him.

The breach by De Swart on February 18 & 19 2016

On February 19 2016 there was a colloquium for this project. On Februari 18 2016, perhaps not coincidentally just the day before, De Swart blocked my attendance for all of these colloquia.

  • His first motivation was that the colloquia were a “closed shop”.
  • When I showed De Swart the email by Van Ulsen (preferring the accomplished PhD above the PhD-student) and stated the inference that there is no “closed shop”, whence his statement was untrue, De Swart replied that I was not welcome, refusing to give me a motivation.

This is a breach of scientific integrity. It blocks the flow of information. A colloquium is not organised for nought. De Swart implicitly slanders to others as if there would be cause to block my attendance. There is a legal distinction between “not welcome” and “forbidden”, but this does not apply here scientifically given De Swart’s original reference to “closed shop”.

I informed De Swart of these implications, but he did not remit. I decided not to attend, if only to protect myself from further abuse. Perhaps De Swart has given a motivation to others (but not to me). If participants have information on this, it should be forwarded to me since it concerns my position.

An educated guess what might have motivated De Swart to breach science

Given the lack of stated motivation, one can only guess about it. The event however must be explained to others.

It is likely relevant to mention an earlier case when De Swart maltreated my work, namely in 2001 on the subject of social welfare and voting theory. I protest against this maltreatment in 2001, see the documentation on my website. This issue is not resolved yet.

  • I do not know of a public statement by De Swart that replies to my protest.
  • I do not know about a public statement on content by De Swart concerning my book “Voting Theory for Democracy” (VTFD) (2001, 2004, 2011, 2014) (stable text, different versions of Mathematica). I would applaud it when he would finally find time to study VTFD, and state explicitly whether or not he sees some of his misconceptions on social welfare and voting theory corrected.
  • My criticism doesn’t only apply to De Swart but also to the Dutch community of researchers on social welfare and voting theory, i.e. that they allow De Swart’s malconduct and do not protect me against it. They apparently also neglect VTFD and related work.
  • Dutch readers can benefit from my webpage that warns about mathematics about social choice and voting theory.
  • Dutch readers can also benefit from De Swart’s valedictorian speech for his departure from Tilburg in 2010: speech, Volkskrant may 19, Volkskrant June 5. De Swart sins against science on (at least) two points.

(1) He gives a wrong summary of Arrow’s Theorem, suggesting that there would be proof that no voting scheme is ideal. VTFD explains that Arrow cannot tell us what is ideal, and that his words on rationality, consumer sovereignty and moral necessity do not fit his mathematics. De Swart’s scientifically proven false statement in Dutch is on page 10:

“Nu zijn er vele andere kiesmechanismen, maar geen van hen blijkt ideaal.”

(2) De Swart proposes that the electorate does much more work in the ballot box, e.g. by giving report card numbers (10 to 0) or scores (A to F) to parties, or by ranking political parties by order of preference. Perhaps the effort can be reduced by simply sorting physical logo’s of the parties, but still it is a significant job, given the empirical numbers of parties. De Swart refers to Balinski and Laraki, 2007, in which 2000 voters scored 12 presidential candidates with apparently relative ease. I have my doubts on this. De Swart may have his personal opinion, but it is not scientific to neglect another proposal that may be even better. De Swart obstructs current discussion about electoral reform by advocating impractical ways and closing his eyes for a practical approach towards improvement. Again he appears to be an abstract thinking mathematician without proper attention for empirical matters. My suggestion is that it not only suffices but may even be optimal when people have only one vote. The relevant point is that the professionals in Parliament use the more complex mechanisms. Thus voters form the weight that is attached to the party of their choice. The power of voters can be enhanced by having annual elections. Populism can be checked by having an Economic Supreme Court. Let Parliament investigate these options, so that politicians know what these options actually are. See the Dutch booklet “De Ontketende Kiezer“.

Harrie de Swart, valedictorian speech 2010 on voting

Harrie de Swart, valedictorian speech 2010 on voting

Political economy and social dynamics of having a grudge

It would not be rational when De Swart links this issue on voting since 2001 to my attendance at these colloquia for this NWO-project. However, he may not like that I protest.

My website documents what happens with my findings. This documentation cannot be construed as a grudge on my part (i.e. an emotion that interferes with good judgement). I politely greet De Swart and hope that he finds his way towards science. It would be slander w.r.t. me to suggest that I would confuse the topic of the NWO-project in 2016 with the issue on voting since 2001, and that I would not be able to respond in scientific and civilised manner when my work and person are abused.This present text is another example of a scientific and civilised response to abuse.

When De Swart does not provide decent motivation, breaches the integrity of science and implicitly slanders w.r.t. my person, then there arises an asymmetry. It would be slander to suggest that I would have a grudge against De Swart, yet it is not slander but an unavoidable hypothesis to explain events by that he might have a grudge w.r.t. this issue of voting since 2001.

Three strikes and you are out (wiki)

It would not be the first time that De Swart breaches rules of science.

  1. Thus on voting 2001, above.
  2. De Swart also is in error in 2008 advising the EU to use square root (Penrose) weights in voting, with neglect of the refutation by Andrew Gelman in 2007.
  3. De Swart is also in error in his management (not necessarily the content) in 2007-2008 of the thesis by M. Cabbolet. De Swart tried again in Eindhoven without telling that it had been rejected in Tilburg, only to be found out later on, see Fiers 2008 and Gerard ‘t Hooft 2014.
  4. Thus on colloquia on Mannoury in 2016, above.

The blockage of my attendance of these colloquia should be lifted. Independently, the breach by De Swart w.r.t. this attendance must be looked into. Resolution of the issue since 2001 w.r.t. voting is required as well. These issues should not be confused. However, De Swart’s breach in 2016 may help readers to grow aware that I had reason to protest in 2001 indeed, and to grow dismayed that the Dutch researchers on social welfare and voting did not resolve this over 15 years, and neither the censorship of science since 1990 for at least 25 years by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) (see the About page).