Understanding the Meta-Game

Numbers and arithmetic seem to be introduced as arcane games of memorization rather than the useful tools they are. Children are especially in need of math, often being intuitively confused when size and number conflict with value. A nickel is larger than a dime, so you want a nickel, yes? And four pennies would be way more than one little dime, right? Those of you who saw small children in recent gift exchanges understand the perceived value of large blocks of colorful plastic versus tiny devices.

Your barber wants to introduce you to the dumbest kid around. He sees the little boy going by, calls him in, and offers him a simple game. In one hand, the barber has a single, beat-up dollar bill. In the other, he has two shiny quarters. Which does the little boy want? He happily takes the two quarters and goes on his way. The barber laughs uproariously. “I must have done that two dozen times, and that little idiot never learns.”

Later you catch the boy coming out of a candy shop. You ask him why he takes fifty cents instead of a dollar. Surely it cannot be because two (quarters) is more than one (dollar)? “If I take the dollar, the game is over. I must have made twelve dollars off him, and that big idiot never learns.”

: Zubon

joke adapted from

One thought on “Understanding the Meta-Game”

  1. I love your joke parable thingy. :)

    Now, let me think…

    Very interesting take on the matter. What if the barber never actually offered extra games?

    Barber still loses fifty cents…

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