Too Much Math

While Americans have some vague idea that its children aren’t very good at math, it turns out even scientists tend to avoid numbers if they can.

According to an article by Elizabeth Gibney at Times Higher Education:

[A] study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, suggests that scientists pay less attention to theories that are dense with mathematical detail.

Researchers in Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences compared citation data with the number of equations per page in more than 600 evolutionary biology papers in 1998. They found that most maths-heavy articles were referenced 50 per cent less often than those with little or no maths. Each additional equation per page reduced a paper’s citation success by 28 per cent.

This is interesting, though don’t expect the paper to be well cited. It is, sadly, full of math (albeit of the counting variety); no one is going to read it.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer