Story Archive

Instruments of Math Instruction

A swarthy man with a foreign accent boarded an American Airlines flight from Philadelphia, Pa., to Syracuse, N.Y., and, once seated, pulled out a notepad and started writing strange symbols. The woman in the next seat didn’t like the looks of that: she handed a flight attendant a note expressing her concerns. After a long wait, the plane turned around and went back to the gate: the swarthy man was escorted off the plane and, after some questioning, was told he was suspected of being a terrorist; his seatmate had noticed his scribbings in his notebook. He laughed. Guido Menzio — he’s Italian — is an award-winning economist who has worked at Princeton and Stanford’s Hoover Institution, and is now an economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. The notebook? He was working on the math for his latest paper on differential price-setting. After a two-hour delay, Menzio, 40, was allowed to reboard the flight so he could present his paper at a conference. The woman did not take the flight. (RC/Washington Post) ...You can’t really blame her: after all, he was using Arabic numerals.
Original Publication Date: 08 May 2016
This story is in True’s book collections, in Volume 22.

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