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The science behind math anxiety

 June 15, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz, your new podcast host….it’s Wednesday, June 15th. >>>>

Explaining the science behind math anxiety

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


The third January 6th committee hearing originally set for today has been postponed to tomorrow at 10 a.m.

The panel scheduled seven hearings throughout June to discuss the months-long investigation of former President Donald Trump’s fraud conspiracy claims and the insurrection on the Capitol on January 6th.

The committee did explain why today’s hearing was postponed.


Oceanside is the latest city to ask its residents to be mindful of their water use.

The city’s move follows a state order urging cutbacks.

The city is asking residents to water landscaping between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. and no more than 3 times per week.

To use sprinklers for no more than 10 minutes per station.

Fix leaks within 72 hours.

And not use decorative fountains unless they use re-circulated water.


The San Diego City Council took the first step in revoking the “People's Ordinance,” which stops the city from charging for trash pickup for single family households.

The council voted yesterday to allow city staff to begin bargaining with labor unions about the possible change.

The change would have to be approved by voters in November.

The proposed ballot measure would not impose a fee, but instead would make changes to the existing ordinance to allow the city to consider other options,such as a “pay as you throw'' model.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.
Stay with me, for more of the local news you need.

Our public discourse is filled with stats.

We are bombarded daily with numbers in the millions and billions, especially where money is involved.

If those figures seem hard to comprehend, or even imagine, it may be because humans did not evolve to count and multiply.

KPBS science and technology reporter Thomas Fudge spoke with a cognitive scientist about our relationship with numbers.

Sign on to any news website and you’ll see them. The million-plus votes a winning candidate received. The billion-plus dollars found in some state or city’s general fund. Those numbers can be hard to relate to and there’s a reason. “We are a species that has been around for 250 thousand years. And numbers have not been around that long.” Rafael Nunez is a professor of cognitive science at UC San Diego. He says that while knowledge of numbers doesn’t always rely on human literacy, it is a recent invention and numbers beyond 4 or 5 are not even used by all humans on earth today. Numbers can quickly become confusing. And saying, for instance, that a million Americans have died of COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily mean much to the people who hear it. “It becomes an abstraction and then the abstraction serves many purposes for doing science, economics and many things. But for really communicating in a meaningful way the tragedy in the case of the sickness and COVID… to communicate the tragedy, the number itself doesn’t provide that.” Nunez calls the use of numbers “exact quantification.” Research by him and others shows that humans and other mammals like dogs and chimps have evolved to discriminate between different quantities… between “a lot” and “a little.” But a study of Australian aboriginal languages showed their numbers had an upper limit of between three and five. Without creating symbols that refer to precise numbers, we have no innate ability to count any higher than that. “We have a biological apparatus supported by very specific forms in our nervous system that has evolved biologically to discriminate quantities. But discriminating quantities doens’t mean language. It doesn’t mean we say that is two and that is three. It doesn’t reflect the property of numbers. It’s just a discriminatiion of quantities.” And that inexact discrimination of quantities is something we do all the time. How many people were at that concert? Not many. Or we may say, A lot! A ton! “Or even you can use other resources like vowel extensions or pitch. When you say Many Many! All of these combinations allow you to quantify in the natural world in a very effective way without having to have numbers.” Nunez says the fact that we have created a system of numbers, based on multiples of ten, means that certain numbers become milestones. One million COVID deaths, for instance. That’s ten to the power of six. Dean Nelson is director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University. Both he and Nunez say the best way for humans to understand numbers is to illustrate them. “When l was growing up it used to be if you stacked a billion dollars in 20s it would be the Empire State Building. I find those kinds of equivalents to be pointless. I think you have to look at it more as purchasing power.” Let's say, for instance, the cost of one fighter jet would pay the cost of a thousand-person army battalion for five years. Water agencies figured out the need to illustrate quantities by inventing the acre foot, which is the amount of water you’d need to cover an acre with water, that’s a foot deep. Hopefully, people still know how big an acre is. “The responsibility for us in journalism is to take numbers that we actually need to understand how our society is working. Our job as journalists is to take those numbers and put them in some kind of a narrative form so that they’re comprehensible. Scholars have argued that our ability to distinguish quantities, a lot versus a little, means humans evolved to create and use numbers. Rafael Nunez disagrees. He says that’s like saying our ability to walk and balance on two legs means we evolved to snowboard. But snowboarding requires training and a cultural underpinning. Just like it does when we’re using numbers. SOQ.


The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 yesterday (TUESDAY) to allow the county to sue gunmakers for deadly shootings.

KPBS’s Alexander Nguyen has more.

Before the vote … county supervisors Nathan Fletcher said California’s gun laws have proven to protect residents. Authorizing the county to sue gun companies is another tool against gun violence. SOT The measures that are put in place in California have given us the 7th lowest gun deaths in the nation. And we know that there are things that can work and help and good. Part of the new policy allowing lawsuits against gunmakers includes collecting data from local law enforcement agencies on gun seizures. These are guns taken from people who are not supposed to have them … such as convicted felons. Supervisors Jim Desmond and Joel Anderson supported obtaining gun seizure data but they voted against suing gun companies. AN/KPBS


Work began this week on protected bike lanes in University Heights, and the project is causing friction between people who say they are a necessity… and others who say they’re bad for businesses because they take away parking spaces.

But Will Rhattigan with Bike Coalition of San Diego County, says 16 bicyclists were killed last year in the city, and once they’re in, they will be worth it.

“The number one reason for putting a bikeway in is to save lives and I think again no amount of parking spaces is worth someone’s life.”

The project will continue through Balboa Park in the fall.


Coming up next.... High Tech High students attempt a 100-mile hike to learn some of what migrants experience when crossing the border.

A group of San Diego high school students tried to bring awareness to asylum seeking immigrants with an attempted one-hundred-mile hike.

Now they’re back, and KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez tells us what happened.

The dozen sophomores and a few freshmen from the original High Tech High School at Liberty Station left June 3rd to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. It starts in Campo and leads north all the way to the Canadian border. Their mission was to walk a hundred miles with only supplies they could carry. It’s a tribute to asylum seeking immigrants who risk their lives doing it every day. Marley Shephard is a 10th grade hiker. SOT “we were able to do stops along the trails…they have to go off with nothing …so it’s something to really keep in mind they have to find shelter and they need to survive and live…and I need to see that through my trip and in my eyes.” The student hikers and their two teachers made it 77-miles just east of Julian before ending their attempt because of the extreme heat. There are plans to try again next year and raise money for the legal defense of asylum seekers. MGP KPBS News


You may not know the name Tamara De Lempicka, but you have probably seen her boldly iconic Art Deco paintings, which have been featured in more than one Madonna music video.

La Jolla Playhouse presents the west coast premiere of the new musical ‘Lempicka,” about the remarkable Polish painter who lived through two World Wars.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with the show's creators, playwright Carson Kreitzer, and composer Matt Gould.

That was Beth Accomando speaking with Carson Kreitzer and Matt Gould.

Lempicka is now running at the La Jolla Playhouse, through July 24th.

That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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A local scientist explains how we process numbers. Meanwhile, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday, to allow the county to sue gunmakers for deadly shootings. Plus, protected bike lanes in University Heights are causing controversy.