Chimps are better than kids at many things, just not math

Island Packet – No, no, no, wrong.

Despite the lies being fed to you by The Media, which has for years cultivated a shamefully conspicuous pro-chimpanzee bias, apes are not better than toddlers at math. Sure, apes might be better at grammar and banana-peeling and insect grooming and some light chemistry, but I can say for a fact that toddlers have way more math skills, because just last week I went to the zoo and asked a gorilla how to find the hypotenuse of a triangle and he just looked at me like an idiot for the full 45 minutes it took for the zookeepers to kick me out.

Researchers in Washington last week announced the results of a test in which they compared the math skills of a 2-year-old with those of an ape — and a regular ape, not one of those smart pilot ones from “Project X” or the flying ones from “The Wizard of Oz,” mostly because then they’d have had to play the hideous flying-monkeys song throughout the whole experiment, and that song freaks people out.

Throughout the study, researchers a group of 106 chimpanzees, 32 orangutans and 105 toddlers — or as its known around town, the Senate (rim shot) — in an attempt to determine which abilities are distinctly human. “Human children are not overall more intelligent than other primates, but instead have specialized skills of social cognition,” said lead researcher Esther Herrmann, a scientist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and someone who probably has no idea what “Elmo’s Theme” sounds like. “They learn in a way that chimpanzees don’t learn.” They also make you sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” in a puppet voice 12 times in a row and have a tendency to drop your digital camera onto concrete driveways, but that’s probably for another column.

The scientists found, among other things, that apes and children did about equally well at processing the physical world: they could both tell, for instance, which of two dishes contained more raisins. But when the dishes were covered up and additional raisins were added, the apes knew better which dish had more.

Yet I can dispute this finding because of three separate findings I’ve made at home:


  1. I have a son,
  2. My son is good at math, and
  3. My son is not a chimpanzee. Although now that I think about it, he does have a thing for bananas, and he does scratch himself an awful lot for a … OK, no, forget it, he’s not a chimpanzee.
But he does know math, and I know he knows math because if I tell him at 8 in the morning that I’ll give him five Skittles after dinner, and if after dinner I give him, say, four Skittles, he will look at me through brittle eyes of simmering, ice-blue rage and say, “No, Daddy, I said five Skittles.” Anything less than five Skittles, and I’m pretty sure he’d start throwing my digital camera around again.

Strictly speaking, I suppose this is an unfair assumption; Jake is largely good at math because he apparently has very few of my genes, but also because when he was very small, we purchased him a counting toy that is attached to the refrigerator. This toy basically taught him math. I helped a little, but as I recall most of my math lessons involved making coffee in the morning, which I had to do, because for years right around sunup, he’d announce his awakeness by either singing a song, pounding on the wall like a crazy person or yelling at the top of his tiny yet athletic lungs. So we’d get up and make coffee, and I, in a bleary-eyed stupor, would attempt to successfully pour coffee grounds into the filter while he counted “1, 2, 3 …” all the way up to 30 (what can I say, I like strong coffee). So any math he learned from me came from that, as did his serious and troubling caffeine addiction. Let’s see some stupid chimpanzee get himself one of those.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

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