More than half of Americans believe 'Arabic numerals' should not be taught in schools, according to a new survey.
When US market research company CivicScience asked 3624 respondents, 56 per cent of them claimed that US curriculum should not include the ten digits (zero to nine) people use every day.
The research, designed to take a look at the bias and prejudice of poll respondents, did not explain what the term 'Arabic numerals' meant when they asked: "Should schools in America teach Arabic numerals as part of their curriculum?"
About 2,020 people answered "no," while 29 per cent of those questioned said the numerals should be taught in US schools, and 15 per cent had no opinion.
CivicScience CEO John Dick posted a screenshot of the results on Twitter, naming them "the saddest and funniest testament to American bigotry we've ever seen in our data".
Dick explained on social media that the company's goal was to "tease out prejudice among those who didn’t understand the question".
He added: "Most people don’t know the origins of our numerical system and yet picked a tribal answer anyway. You can argue that one is worse than the other but both prove a similar point."
His post went quickly viral, receiving more than 60,000 likes and 25,000 retweets and spurring conversation on social media.
Many Twitter users believed the results came from ignorance, not bigotry. "Methinks the respondents did not realize where the numbers they use EVERY DAY came from," said @intheminivan1.
Twitter user @LtownZag also believed it was a misunderstanding, saying: "Why is that bigotry? Public schools have kids for 6hr/day. Isn't it possible that teaching Arabic could be beneficial and important but at the same time less beneficial and important than other things which fill those hours?"
Others insisted that those who responded to the survey knew exactly what Arabic numerals are.
"If they find out Arabs discovered most math, no one in the States would even count to ten," claimed @sleepingkoala45, while @prtitan wrote: "It’s about time we create good old American numerals before there are tariffs on Arab goods."
Other people pointed out the question’s similarity to a recent episode of TV comedy Veep, in which Presidential candidate Jonah states: "Math was created by Muslims. And we teach this Islamic math to children. Math teachers are terrorists! Algebra? More like Al Jazeera… I will ban this Sharia math from being taught to American children. There will be no more math."
In addition, the study revealed that 72 per cent of Republican-supporting respondents think Arabic numerals should not be on the curriculum, compared 40 per cent of Democrats, despite there being no significant difference in education between the two political groups.
CivicScience CEO commented on this difference, stating: "They answer differently even though they had equal knowledge of our numerical nomenclature. It means that the question is about knowledge or ignorance but [also] something else – prejudice."
The research was not limited to attitudes towards Islam, with another poll question asking: "Should schools in America teach the creation theory of Catholic priest George Lemaitre as part of their science curriculum?"
Seventy-three per cent of Democrats answered "no," while 33 per cent of Republicans said "yes".