Unexpectedly Intriguing!
August 26, 2010

The origin of all math starts simply with progressing through the following sequence of numbers:

... 1 2 3 4 5 6 ...

The "..." above indicates that we can continue indefinitely, because there is no point at which we might run out of numbers. The act of going through this progression is called "counting." We can count "forward" as we've shown above, or we can count backwards:

... 6 5 4 3 2 1 ...

Once again, there is no limit to how far we can count backwards, as we could continue by progressing through zero and on through an infinite series of negative numbers.

The mathematical operations of addition and subtraction directly tie into the process of counting. Addition is the process of counting forward from a specified starting point, while subtraction is the process of counting backwards from a specified starting point. Let's consider an example of addition:

2 + 3

We read this problem from left to right. It tells us to start at the value of 2, then count forward (which is indicated by the "+" symbol) 3 steps before stopping:

    Start     Stop    
... 1 2 3 4 5 6 ...
      Step 1 Step 2 Step 3    

The solution to the example then is 5, the value at which we stop counting forward.

Subtraction works just like addition, but in reverse. If we have:

5 - 3

We again read the problem from left to right. It tells us to start at the value of 5, then count backwards (which is indicated by the "-" symbol) 3 steps before stopping:

    Start     Stop    
... 6 5 4 3 2 1 ...
      Step 1 Step 2 Step 3    

The solution to this example then is 2, the value at which we stop counting backwards.

We should note that these basic mathematical operations remain unchanged even when working with numbers that incorporate parts of whole numbers, such as fractions or decimals. While these types of values may require some extra processing to get to the point where you can simply count forwards or backwards to obtain the solution, the processes of either counting forwards or backwards are performed the same.

And now, you know as much or more about this most basic kind of math as New Jersey's public officials and we're sorry to have to say, much, much more than media personality Rachel Maddow:

While Governor Christie simply erred in the calculation, as much as any human being, including us, is likely to do on occasion, Ms. Maddow's poorly executed attempt at criticism while repeating the error has the effect of making her appear to be incredibly clueless.

Fortunately for innumerate media personalities like Ms. Maddow, we can help. Here's a tool that anyone who needs to subtract a value in decimal format from another can use to arrive at the correct solution, which we'll format to provide the result to the nearest hundredth (for innumerate media personalities, that's the nearest 1/100 of a whole number, which makes it really useful for performing subtraction operations that involve quantities of money!)

- =

We could go to the trouble of creating a special tool just for media personalities seeking to do addition without publicly embarrassing themselves as well, but let's see if we can score a deal from a major network and get paid beaucoup bucks for the development work! After all, we just did the subtraction job pro bono to demonstrate our capabilities, and to be blunt, network head honchos reading through this far, it's not like you're never going to have another problem with your on-air talent attempting to perform any kind of mathematical operation without assistance. You need us!

Update: Well, how embarrassing for Ms. Maddow! Apparently her network had to go to the trouble and expense of re-shooting that segment of her show to whitewash her display of innumeracy for Internet posterity!

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Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

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