Maths vs. English

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Are you more mathematically inclined, or do you see yourself as more of a wordsmith?

Maths
28
74%
English
10
26%
 
Total votes: 38

Eoin Monaghan
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Maths vs. English

Post by Eoin Monaghan » Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:40 pm

As much as Countdown is a words and numbers game - in fact more so a letters game - it seems that all the top players are more mathematically inclined. I guess this is because they have more of an analytic mind, and spotting the words is all about spotting patterns, so it kind of makes sense there. At the same time though, you'd expect some top players to be predominantly wordsmiths. I can already imagine the outcome of this poll, but I'm just wondering; are there many on this forum who would see themselves more on the English side of things?

Personally, I love them both, and always have. Maths is most likely something I'll be pursuing after I finish school, yet I find that I understand words and language well, and perhaps would say I'm more of a words person, than a Mathmo.

Anyone else?

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Mark Deeks
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Mark Deeks » Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:47 pm

Balls to numbers. Also, the absolute top player is the ultimate wordsmith, and which I get that this is an outlier, it's a pretty sodding big one.
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Jennifer Steadman » Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:30 pm

I've always been surprised by this too. The only two Apterites I can think of off the top of my head who did English at uni were me and (I think) Heather?

(To answer your question though; wordsmith. Obvs.)
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Jon O'Neill » Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:07 pm

Mark Deeks wrote:Also, the absolute top player is the ultimate wordsmith
Who's that?

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Mark Deeks
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Mark Deeks » Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:12 pm

Me, obviously.
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Gavin Chipper » Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:40 pm

Jon O'Neill wrote:
Mark Deeks wrote:Also, the absolute top player is the ultimate wordsmith
Who's that?
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Innis Carson
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Innis Carson » Wed Jan 15, 2014 10:47 pm

It's not really that surprising a correlation I don't think. Both the letters and numbers games are fundamentally very computational in nature, and it makes sense that the kind of mind that can play them well will tend to be the same kind of mind that can do mental arithmetic well - I know that's not the same as being good at maths, but chances are most people who will grow up being considered a 'maths type' will do so because they were good at arithmetic. The kind of skills that are generally more associated with being a 'language type', like creativity and critical thinking, may be helpful for Countdown in a few particular cases, but it's definitely a secondary factor. In the long term, the people who can run through permutations in their mind the most quickly will prevail.

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Zarte Siempre » Thu Jan 16, 2014 12:23 am

In life, or in game? My answer would be different for each.
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Gavin Chipper » Thu Jan 16, 2014 12:29 am

Innis Carson wrote:It's not really that surprising a correlation I don't think. Both the letters and numbers games are fundamentally very computational in nature, and it makes sense that the kind of mind that can play them well will tend to be the same kind of mind that can do mental arithmetic well - I know that's not the same as being good at maths, but chances are most people who will grow up being considered a 'maths type' will do so because they were good at arithmetic. The kind of skills that are generally more associated with being a 'language type', like creativity and critical thinking, may be helpful for Countdown in a few particular cases, but it's definitely a secondary factor. In the long term, the people who can run through permutations in their mind the most quickly will prevail.
Something I'd take issue with is that "language types" are more creative or better at critical thinking. There's different forms of creativity and critical thinking anyway, but coming up with a mathematical idea (I don't mean solving a Countdown numbers game) or a theory of physics involves as much creativity as anything else. But obviously if we are just talking about arithmetic when it comes to "maths types" then there's not much creativity involved.

Also there's a lot of different words being thrown about like "analytic" to describe the maths types. But aren't some "English types" analytic too? Because both poll options cover such a wide variety of skills and interests, I'm not sure how meaningful it is. I suppose it's good to see people's instant reactions about themselves, but I'm abstaining.

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by John Gillies » Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:37 am

Innis Carson wrote: mental arithmetic well - I know that's not the same as being good at maths
Exactly, Innis. Most people use the word 'maths' when they mean 'arithmetic' which has always irritated me. I guess it's understandable as arithmetic was always taught in England as part of Mathematics lessons, as it is nowadays in Scotland too. But when I was a lad (oh, here we go...) we had separate 'O' Grades for Arithmetic and Mathematics.

It tickled me that when my son Scott was on the show Jeff said to him something like, "Your maths abilities are pretty amazing," as Scott wouldn't know a rhombus if it jumped up and bit him on the arse! Having said that his mental arithmetic skills are far superior to mine, and I'm the one with a maths degree.

Anyway, I also enjoy words and have read a few books on language and grammar. I find it really fascinating, although not all of it sticks as I still probably say 'less' when I mean 'fewer', for example. But I hated English at school mainly due to the fact that I absolutely detested Shakespeare and poetry, which was all English seemed to be about at school.
We weren't taught much about the language itself.
I read an interesting article a couple of years ago which kind of explained this. Apparently in the mid 60's when I started school, some people decided (in their infinite wisdom) that grammar didn't need to be taught in schools as rigidly as it had been previously - that it was just a skill that pupils would acquire naturally without structured tuition.

I'll always remember older relatives asking me if I was learning about 'parsing' in English yet. I hadn't a clue what they were on about. There was no parsing in my English lessons, just bloody interminable Macbeth and Julius Fuckin Caesar!

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Matt Morrison » Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:52 am

Jennifer Steadman wrote:The only two Apterites I can think of off the top of my head who did English at uni were me and (I think) Heather?
You new school English fucks. I've been bringing down the averages since before you'd even heard of apterous.

That said, I always considered myself more of a numbers person, probably still do. Although obviously shit at both.

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Peter Mabey » Thu Jan 16, 2014 11:53 am

As Rachel occasionally reminds us, arithmetic is totally irrelevant to university level mathematics. Although my degree is in mathematics, my numbers skill (such as it is) derives from tackling Mensa-type puzzles, so can immediately spot factors of 3-digit numbers, and am also familiar with 13 & 17 times tables. Similarly the English I learnt at school, while helpful with allusions in cryptic crosswords, it's the anagrams therein that are more useful for the letters rounds.

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Jennifer Steadman » Thu Jan 16, 2014 12:15 pm

Matt Morrison wrote:
Jennifer Steadman wrote:The only two Apterites I can think of off the top of my head who did English at uni were me and (I think) Heather?
You new school English fucks. I've been bringing down the averages since before you'd even heard of apterous.
Oops, sorry MM! (I tend to lump you in with the mathsy/computery people because of the computer thread on here. Had completely forgotten you're the original 'English at Exeter Uni'er on here.)
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Matt Morrison » Thu Jan 16, 2014 12:17 pm

Haha, oh yeah, same uni! I'd forgotten that temporarily too! Well yes there we go. Three of us sensitive types.

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Matt Morrison » Thu Jan 16, 2014 12:19 pm

Eoin Monaghan wrote:Mathmo.
Hi. :roll:

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Heather Styles » Thu Jan 16, 2014 12:31 pm

I voted English. I did study English Literature at university, but I suspect that this may have affected my caffeine intake more significantly than it has my playing of Countdown and apterous. I do think of myself as a creative person, which is perhaps why I very often make up (non-)words and blag my way to numbers solutions ;)

As an aside, the Countdown board game that we had at home when I was a child contained only letters, no numbers, and on the box it said "Countdown: The challenging word-power game" (like this one http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/VINTAGE-1986- ... 1243095093). If I recall our conversation correctly, Chris Marshall (fellow Series 67 contestant) had a board game at home which did include numbers :o

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Ciaran McCarthy » Thu Jan 16, 2014 1:00 pm

I was watched Countdown when i was 3 years old and i always got easy 3 letters word such as CAT, DOG etc. I have Countdown gears (board game, electric game etc.) i got improved when i was teenager but i used to love maths for all in my life as i got C for GCSE :) I do like word and numbers game but i fondly playing maths game!

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Ian Volante » Thu Jan 16, 2014 1:14 pm

Traditionally always preferred numbers games on CD, and was a science student, and am a statistician. However, I find language much more interesting. As Dr Zipf demonstrated, there's a strong link between the two.
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Eoin Monaghan » Thu Jan 16, 2014 4:58 pm

Matt Morrison wrote:
Eoin Monaghan wrote:Mathmo.
Hi. :roll:
? :?

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Eoin Monaghan » Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:00 pm

All interesting posts so far, with the poll going much the way I expected.

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Matt Morrison
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Matt Morrison » Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:47 pm

Eoin Monaghan wrote:
Matt Morrison wrote:
Eoin Monaghan wrote:Mathmo.
Hi. :roll:
? :?
You called?

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Rhys Benjamin » Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:22 pm

Maths. Easy. Ignoring my apterous superstats, I suppose there is a correlation between Countdown and real life. Having always been fantastic at Maths - indeed, A* for IGCSE (predicted) and A* for Statistics GCSE (predicted), and having grades never lower than A in the subject, I've always done well at numbers on Countdown.

However, in recent months I have vastly improved at the letters on Countdown, and I think this is related to a vast improvement in English, going from C to A in one term (approx. 4 months). I'm now predicted A and A for both English subjects.
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by JimBentley » Sun Jan 19, 2014 5:07 pm

Rhys Benjamin wrote:Maths. Easy. Ignoring my apterous superstats, I suppose there is a correlation between Countdown and real life. Having always been fantastic at Maths - indeed, A* for IGCSE (predicted) and A* for Statistics GCSE (predicted), and having grades never lower than A in the subject, I've always done well at numbers on Countdown.

However, in recent months I have vastly improved at the letters on Countdown, and I think this is related to a vast improvement in English, going from C to A in one term (approx. 4 months). I'm now predicted A and A for both English subjects.
All that and so modest too!
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Philip Wilson » Mon Jan 20, 2014 3:22 pm

Definitely maths [numbers] for me. I think one of the reasons is it's clear what's right or wrong.
Edit: Refer to the 'is this word allowable' thread ;)
Last edited by Philip Wilson on Mon Jan 20, 2014 4:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Zarte Siempre » Mon Jan 20, 2014 3:56 pm

JimBentley wrote:
Rhys Benjamin wrote:Maths. Easy. Ignoring my apterous superstats, I suppose there is a correlation between Countdown and real life. Having always been fantastic at Maths - indeed, A* for IGCSE (predicted) and A* for Statistics GCSE (predicted), and having grades never lower than A in the subject, I've always done well at numbers on Countdown.

However, in recent months I have vastly improved at the letters on Countdown, and I think this is related to a vast improvement in English, going from C to A in one term (approx. 4 months). I'm now predicted A and A for both English subjects.
All that and so modest too!
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Tom » Sat Feb 15, 2014 1:59 pm

What's seemed evident to me is that a lot of very successful players have a background in mathematics. In the 30th BC I can think of about half a dozen people who were or had studied maths at University and there may well have been more. Seemingly I've known top players with backgrounds in computer science too. A lot of people I've known from University and outside who did English at University have said to me that they wouldn't be amazing Countdown players. I think if you're going to be a top Countdown player you ultimately need the right brain for it and whilst I'm sure there are plenty of English inclined people who have gone on to do really well, it seems conclusive to me that maths seems to outweigh English.

If you look at the presenters/co-presenters, I'd reckon Rachel ( obviously having a maths background) would be capable of becoming an Octochamp without breaking too much sweat and Carol whilst I think wouldn't have fared as well on the letters side, I still think had she been a player she would have held her own most times and would probably have been capable of winning a couple of games. Richard Whiteley had a background in English and I always had the impression he wouldn't have been that amazing a player.

For me, my degree is in Business Studies but in terms of Maths vs English, I believe I've always been better at English and maths beyond arithmetic I've been average at.
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Re: Maths vs. English

Post by Julia Hayward » Tue Aug 12, 2014 4:11 pm

Peter Mabey wrote:As Rachel occasionally reminds us, arithmetic is totally irrelevant to university level mathematics. Although my degree is in mathematics, my numbers skill (such as it is) derives from tackling Mensa-type puzzles, so can immediately spot factors of 3-digit numbers, and am also familiar with 13 & 17 times tables. Similarly the English I learnt at school, while helpful with allusions in cryptic crosswords, it's the anagrams therein that are more useful for the letters rounds.
I got through several maths degrees with barely a reference to actual numbers (other than 1, e, pi and i) ... I had to work on the mental arithmetic when playing backgammon at national level, doing position counts and probability calculations in my head. In tournament play nowadays they use chess clocks, which adds more of a Countdowny atmosphere!

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