I read an article recently that claimed most Americans don’t intuitively understand percentages. They can’t grok them – in fact, according to one part of the article, just about a third of people chose a smaller of two monetary bonuses because of the two choices, one was listed as a dollar amount and one was listed as a percentage of some different number and people couldn’t figure out which one was the bigger total gain.
Now, lots of people might read information like that and groan with disappointment at their society or whatever. Not me! I’m usually thrilled about stuff like that.
Why? Well for one, anything most people don’t know is essentially a free superpower for the taking. If most people can’t do something that you can, you’re like Superman. So I quickly checked in with my kids to make sure they knew how to do percentages (both in terms of the mathematics and running a few intuition questions past them). They knew their stuff and seemed pretty sure I was insane for even asking.
But now I feel like Jor-El sending his child to Earth in a rocket. I don’t worry about what “most Americans” can do – I can’t affect it. But I know what three specific ones can (and will) do, and I am content.