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    Seems like an easy problem to resolve: change ads to say “more meat for the same price!”

    3 is less than 4 seems like an easy quick reaction, but what happens if you actually tell people this burger is bigger?

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      I suppose that depends on what you perceive the problem to be. :)

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        Well, to expand a little bit. Was it really half the people they talked to, or half the people who thought it was a bad value? That’s one of those little details that always gets lost in translation, but matters quite a bit. Anyway, assuming half of all people.

        Are people really numerically illiterate? Did they ask how many ounces in a third and quarter pound? Is 5.3 less than 4?

        People’s intuition for fractions is probably wrong because fractions aren’t that intuitive. If your marketing depends on people passing a math quiz, that’s not great, but if you don’t tell them it’s a math quiz? Even less great.

        If you’re driving down the highway and looking at billboards, as opposed to reducing fractions for fun on the couch, you probably think one third vs one quarter, that’s three to a pound vs four to a pound, 3 for X is less than 4 for X, … Losing track of the units somewhere along the way.

        How many people’s first memory of fractions is that time in school they were tricked into thinking 2/9 is bigger than ¼? So people know fractions are tricky and don’t trust them. Meanwhile, somebody comes along with an ad that looks very much like the ad you’d run trying to sell a smaller burger but making it sound bigger. I don’t blame people for being suspicious of what looks like a trick. A marketing campaign of “you can trust our fractions”? Also not great.

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        Agreed.

        Depressingly, their better option probably would have been to pitch it as a “Quarter-Pound-Plus” burger …

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          I agree that this is an issue of marketing, but its also an issue with the assumption of the general population’s understanding of math. I like to imagine being in those marketing meetings and thinking up the justification of the advertising campaigns.

          Imagine sitting there with a bunch of copywriters, advertisers, designers, and upper management talking about the direct competition you are going against. You are introduced with the idea of having a bigger patty for the same price as the competition’s smaller burger. You are informed that the burger will be 1/3 pounds. With that knowledge, and the topics of the meeting its a no-brainer to call the burger the 1/3 Pounder. I bet the marketing team at McDonald’s was pissed when it was released.

          Its definitely a case of hind-sight is 20/20 after the sales weren’t good, forcing conduction the focus groups.

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          Innumeracy is not really a good use of the math tag, and Mother Jones isn’t really a good source for learning tech.

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            Please stop being so snobbish about sources. What matters is the veracity of the story, which doesn’t change depending on who reports the story. The Mother Jones article was the only one I could find that actually cited the origin of this, which was the book Threshold Resistance, which neither the NYT (where I first read the story) nor Mental Floss actually gave any further indication of where this story could have come from.

            As far as this not being about math, it definitely is about mathematics education, which was the original context for this anecdote in the NYT, but nobody read the whole article in HN, so I didn’t expect Lobsters to be more enlightened and actually read that long article.

            Then again, if there’s no math education tag on Lobsters, maybe that’s because this story doesn’t belong here at all.

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              Then again, if there’s no math education tag on Lobsters, maybe that’s because this story doesn’t belong here at all.

              That would seem to be a reasonable conclusion.

              What matters is the veracity of the story, which doesn’t change depending on who reports the story.

              What matters first and foremost is the content of the story. Your submission is seven paragraphs and can be handily distilled to “Dumb Americans in the 80s thought A&W third-pounders had less meat per dollar than quarter-pounders”.

              That’s precisely the small atom of knowledge this article adds to the viewing audience. At best it’ll be useful in bar trivia one day, and at worst it feeds clickbait elitism. It has no place here.

              Please stop being so snobbish about sources.

              Many sources just are not known for quality (Techcrunch, Infowars, Business Insider), neutrality (Polygon, Daily Kos, Fox News, Vice), or tech relevancy (New Yorker, Jacobin, Less Wrong, New England Journal of Medicine).

              It’s usually pretty easy to do a quick filter on source websites to see if an article is either a) bad or b) well-covered elsewhere.

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                I’ve been musing about an education tag for some time (going back to my first Lobsters post, IIRC) - philosophy sometimes fits though.