Justin Trudeau, algebra, attack ads and Michael Dukakis

Changing the channel, circa 1988


Jonathan Kay checks the math behind Justin Trudeau in the new Liberal ad.

My only real complaint with the ad is the set of polynomial expressions written on the blackboard. The first three are all correct. But on the fourth, they failed to simplify the expression (4x + 6)(x+2). Someone seems to have started, with the incorrect formulation “4×2=8x” … which seems to be a botched effort to capture the terms 4x-squared and 8x, which would have been derived by correctly unpacking the remaining unsolved polynomial. But then they gave up (and, oddly, added in a spurious equals sign). Perhaps the camera crew was getting impatient.

For confirmation, the National Post consults mathematicians.

Meanwhile, Dave Wiegel recalls Michael Dukakis.

The “responding to an attack ad” ad is actually a genre unto itself in the United States—see here, here, here or here, for example.


Justin Trudeau, algebra, attack ads and Michael Dukakis

  1. Math is hard for Liberals. But that’s okay, because Liberals like to concern themselves with the “square-root causes” of the nation’s problems.

    • Newsflash – Kay was wrong. The math was incomplete, not wrong. Did you even bother to read the links?

      • FOIL – multiply in order first terms, outer terms, inner terms, last terms. Grade 9 math.

        He’s doing, incompletely, I dunno, OFIL?

        • Couldn’t tell you. My last math class was 20 years ago. The math guys seem to think it was ok. Good enough for me.

        • The order of terms is just cosmetic. It does not matter in which order the terms are expressed.

          Nowhere on the board behind Trudeau is ‘x’ used to denote multiplication. The expression 4x (dot) 2 = 8x is correct. It’s not particularly useful, relevant or interesting, but it is valid.

          As someone trained in mathematics, you don’t use ‘x’ to denote multiplication. They usually try to beat that out of students in high school. Dot or parentheses are better, notationally, as they avoid confusion.

          • As someone trained in mathematics, you don’t use ‘x’ to denote multiplication.

            Well, they do in grade school, and if this is grade 9 level, it is ambiguous and therefore confusing. And as “someone trained in mathematics” you would know that the unknown “x” is usually presented in script form to avoid that confusion.

            I agree “4x (dot) 2” is acceptable. But there is no “(dot)”. In grade 9, where math is abstract and difficult to understand for many, this is just sloppy or inattentive to detail.

            Not that I am suggesting that JT actually was taking a break in between periods from teaching an algebra class, and was caught on video watching an ad about himself. More likely one of the PoliSci trained handlers helped prepare the set. And fell short – it’s a distraction, and I wasn’t the only one to pick it up – at least two reporters at the NP did at the same time.

            Butts’s fault. But no big deal, true.

          • IIRC, we started using (dot) in grade 9.

            When I first saw the ad, and saw the arithmetic on the board, I knew that the channel changing tactic would be to go after the prop in the background as if it meant anything at all. I agree that it’s a prop, Justin did not write it, and that it means just about nothing, despite the bleatings of the critics.

        • Is it? Source please…i wouldn’t cross the road on your all clear.

          • Oh, so 1 + 15 = 1 would be correct in your mind, just because I didn’t “complete” writing the 6 at the end? Math is logic, pure and simple. There is only correct, or incorrect.

          • Your an idiot Omen all the way through. There is no such analogous example on that board.

            I’ve seen the link from the math experts thanks. It’s incomplete, not wrong. At least until another accredited math expert says otherwise.

          • Fine, you’re right and I’m incomplete. LOL.

            If you hire a contractor to build a deck for you by the end of the month, and he builds a half a deck by the end of the month: did he do the job correctly, or incorrectly?

            Let’s hear some more about how you can not complete something but still have done it correctly. Comon! Liberal Logic FTW!!

          • I’m sure your analogy applies to math…it must, it’s only common sense init!

    • No, it`s apparently hard for you. What`s shown is work in progress, and is correct.

      • How exactly can a work in progress be correct in math? There’s no grey area in math, it’s either correct, or it’s not. In this case, it’s not.

    • Funny, then, that educational attainment is inversely correlated with propensity to vote conservative. Same goes for propensity to believe in the supernatural (like religion).

      • Yes, conservatives are stupid people. Liberals are smart people.
        Liberals are better people than conservatives.

        • If that’s the level of nuance that you’re capable of understanding, I won’t try to correct you.

          • You know, all the conservatives that I know have pulled their children out of school and have told their children in no uncertain terms to stop learning anything. Instead, they have told their children to eat junk food, play video games and watch Fox News and/or Sun News. That’s how awful, stupid, anti-learning and anti-science they are.

          • Your friends sound awful. Maybe you should find new ones.

        • I’d vote you up for that if i thought you were serious.

          • I vote him up every time because I admire his consistency.

          • It’s very important for Liberals that they tell themselves and everybody else on a daily basis how superior they are to conservatives. That’s really the essence of the Liberal progressive mindset.
            Plus if we don’t vote Liberal and Stop Harper, I understand that we’re all going to end up being killed or maimed by terrorists.

          • Yes. Another thumzup!

          • Why reply for Andrew and not Rick Omen, Mr. Bean?

        • You may be pleased to know that men who are physically strong (as measured by bicep diameter) are likelier than average to be conservative, so it’s not all bad.

          • That Brazeau sure had huge arms!

        • Take x number of sips of your drink!

        • I’m starting to thumb’s up your posts, Bean. You’ve finally realized the truth.

      • This comment was deleted.

        • I doubt there have been any rigorous studies that support those conclusions.

        • Or a troll who calls himself Rick Omen.

          • Ah, resorted to name-calling for a second time in a row!

            Victory is Mine!!!!

          • Sorry i couldn’t oblige more often Dr evil.

  2. The thing is – the liberals really fell down on this one – what should have been done is a calm and yet slightly turned out phrase that used subtlety to give Harper and Mulcair a zinger !!!!! – the video here is boring too boring – you can’t match melodrama with boring it won’t work – as they say that aint how it rolls! what should have been done is the back handed statement or some such anythingh to add some emotion outside of sheer boredom – you watch this ad once and that’s it you can’t watch it again you will change the channel – attack ads are hilarious and you can watch them over and over – of course it is way more fun if it’s attacking your opponent – the NDP one coming out soon zings Trudeau can’t wait for that one :) – things are getting interesting

  3. Hey, where’s my shout out?

  4. Dare we say the next CPC ad will feature a snarky voice over bemoaning the ‘drama teacher/part time math teacher as a numerical dunce…nah they wouldn’t do that, would they?
    Luckily the NP sent it out to experts. At least the clowns at CPC HQ can put their socks back on now.

  5. George Bush – “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

  6. Oh man…. The SNL parodies of the Bush senior attack ads were classics. I do not remember specifics, but I do recall the dark sinister voice pronunciation of Du-Ka-Kis. Vote use…. He’s whiter!

    • Vote Bush….. He’s whiter!

      • Those were awesome. Especially the narration.

        • I really really hate geo-blocking restrictions, which prevent a Canadian such as myself from accessing video content from the SNL website. The sheer stupidity of having such restrictions which make it IMPOSSIBLE to access content by any legal means.

  7. Man, that Kay has staying power. I stopped checking the math after squinting through the first equation.

  8. It doesn’t matter whether the math is correct, incorrect, or unsolved. It matters that JT didn’t write them nor slove them

  9. It doesn’t matter whether the math is correct, incorrect, or unsolved. It matters that JT didn’t write them nor solve them

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