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  #1  
Old 26 July 2014, 07:12 PM
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Teacher Americans are bad at fractions

This from the NYT and I'd love to believe that it's true, but it does have
a certain UL-ish look to it. Can you check it out?

==============

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/ma...k-at-math.html

"One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred
in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger
to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the
A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests,
customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W
television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead
of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.

"Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why.
The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions.
And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed
they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they
pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a
quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼,” larger than the “3”
in “⅓,” led them astray."
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  #2  
Old 26 July 2014, 08:04 PM
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I hadn't heard of anyone thinking ⅓ was smaller that ¼ but I can believe it. In 2007, the company that runs the UK's lottery had to withdraw a scratchcard game they were running because too many people were struggling with the maths involved.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Manchester Evening News
To qualify for a prize, users had to scratch away a window to reveal a temperature lower than the figure displayed on each card. As the game had a winter theme, the temperature was usually below freezing but the concept of comparing negative numbers proved too difficult for some. Camelot received dozens of complaints on the first day from players who could not understand how, for example, -5 is higher than -6.
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  #3  
Old 26 July 2014, 08:33 PM
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http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-dru...-burger-ripoff

Quote:
UPDATE: Elizabeth Green tweets that her source for this anecdote is Threshold Resistance by Alfred Taubman, who owned A&W in the 80s. Here's the relevant passage, after Taubman has called in Yankelovich, Skelly and White to figure out what was wrong with their burger:

Well, it turned out that customers preferred the taste of our fresh beef over traditional fast-food hockey pucks. Hands down, we had a better product. But there was a serious problem. More than half of the participants in the Yankelovich focus groups questioned the price of our burger. "Why," they asked, "should we pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as we do for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald's? You're overcharging us." Honestly. People thought a third of a pound was less than a quarter of a pound. After all, three is less than four!
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  #4  
Old 27 July 2014, 03:46 AM
jimmy101_again jimmy101_again is offline
 
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Since the weights are before cooking a 1/3 pound patty might end up being less than a 1/4 pound patty after cooking.
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  #5  
Old 27 July 2014, 04:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmy101_again View Post
Since the weights are before cooking a 1/3 pound patty might end up being less than a 1/4 pound patty after cooking.
Since they both are I'd like to hear your logic...
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  #6  
Old 27 July 2014, 11:02 AM
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Well, you see since a third pound burger weighs more, it loses more weight, which naturally causes it to come out weighing less.
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  #7  
Old 27 July 2014, 06:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Latiam View Post
Since they both are I'd like to hear your logic...
Differing fat content. If the 1/3 pound patty has a higher fat content it may well end up weighing less than the 1/4 pound patty after cooking. You eat the cooked patty not the raw one so weight after cooking is what matters.
Usually as the fat content of hamburger goes up the cost goes down. You could sell a 1/2 pound (before cooking) patty for the same as a 1/4 pound one if the 1/2 pounder was much higher in fat (say 20% vs 5%).
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  #8  
Old 27 July 2014, 07:44 PM
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I've never seen ground beef with a higher fat content than 20%. Even if it lost all of that fat during cooking (which of course it wouldn't), it would weigh over 1/4 pound. (It would start out at 5 1/3 ounces, and end at over 4 ounces.) And of course, a 1/4 pound burger loses some too.
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  #9  
Old 27 July 2014, 10:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
I've never seen ground beef with a higher fat content than 20%. Even if it lost all of that fat during cooking (which of course it wouldn't), it would weigh over 1/4 pound. (It would start out at 5 1/3 ounces, and end at over 4 ounces.) And of course, a 1/4 pound burger loses some too.
You're right, though the 20% limit is what is in stores. I don't think fast food places get their ground beef at the store, they can probably get anything they want from their meet suppliers since they buy so much.

Another source of weight loss would be water content.
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  #10  
Old 27 July 2014, 10:23 PM
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Given the description of "fresh beef vs hockey puck," I'm guessing that the A&W burgers weren't losing too much water content.
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  #11  
Old 27 July 2014, 10:53 PM
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I'd hardly take the owner's word for it that his burger did poorly because Americans don't get fractions. Could be any number of reasons.

Maybe the real reason people didn't go for the A&W burger was greater market penetration by McDonalds and inferior fries at A&W (just an untested hypothesis since I can't speak for their fries in '87, only their fries now, and even then it's just an opinion). Maybe their branding/marketing were poor. Maybe they were hindered by being known primarily for root beer, an inferior* beverage).

Or maybe it's because we all know, whether we want to admit it or not, that the very idea of a burger greater than the quarter pound burger is blasphemous because it is a natural law that His burger is the greatest of all burgers. There can no more be a third pound burger than the world should cease to turn or the stars should cease to shine**.

*Okay, another unsupported opinion.

**Not an opinion. God's honest Truth as revealed through the Holy Mysteries of McDonaldland.
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  #12  
Old 27 July 2014, 11:11 PM
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Honestly, I've seen plenty of places that have 1/3 lb hamburgers advertised. I like A&W hamburgers all right, but it's not a place that I'd really go to for a hamburger because of how long it's always taken to get my food every time I've gone. I've I'm going to a fast food restaurant (which I try to avoid), I want my food quickly and the local A&W has never done that in my experience.
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  #13  
Old 28 July 2014, 03:16 AM
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Aside from "being bad at fractions" argument, I wonder if it was a challenge that people are much more used to food being sold/advertised in halves or quarters of a pound instead of thirds. When buying meat at the deli, most people (in my observation, at least), will order a quarter of a pound, a half a pound, or a pound; not sure how common it is for someone to request a third of a pound.
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  #14  
Old 28 July 2014, 03:22 AM
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Not all burger restaurants use 100% beef (and only beef) for their hamburgers - some use binding ingredients (oatmeal burger, anyone) to extend the burger and a lot of these burgers will be higher in fat content - a bit of cheap fat and cheap binder and you get by with less high-quality meat.

I don't know if A&W was advertising 100% beef (no additives or fillers) back then, or even if they do now - the last commercial I saw for them was touting their beef to be free of antibiotics, and that's the only part I remember.
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  #15  
Old 28 July 2014, 04:20 AM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter View Post
Honestly, I've seen plenty of places that have 1/3 lb hamburgers advertised. ...
Even McDonald's did, for awhile, with their Angus burgers, but they seem to have dropped that line.

Nick
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  #16  
Old 28 July 2014, 02:40 PM
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I think it is strange that Americans should be bad at these particular fractions.

Cooking and baking recipes in the USA generally require the use of measuring cups and these come in sets: 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup. People who use measuring cups should know that they nest inside each other and that the 1/4 fits inside the 1/3 and must therefore be smaller.

Or is it that fast food eaters don't cook or bake?


(I picked the icon because he spits out 2/3 or maybe even 3/4 of his water.)
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  #17  
Old 28 July 2014, 02:48 PM
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I think 70% of Americans would have no problem with these fractions. The other half wouldn't get it.
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  #18  
Old 28 July 2014, 03:40 PM
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I use a single measuring jug with different measures marked on it, not a nesting set. Is that weird?
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  #19  
Old 28 July 2014, 03:46 PM
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All of the 1 cup measuring cups and 2 quart pitchers I've seen are marked with some fractional sizes, so the concept of using a larger cup/jug for smaller measurements is certainly not weird. But since the 1/4 mark is lower than the 1/3 mark, even a graduated measuring cup should "teach" that 1/4 is less than 1/3.
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  #20  
Old 28 July 2014, 03:50 PM
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Not weird, but most of the time the nesting style cups are used for dry measuring and the type you seem to be describing are for liquid measuring. I've used dry ones for liquid, but never the other way round.
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