HotAIR - MINI FOLLOW-UP -- Math 101


Math 101*

A numerical controversy

compiled by Nan Swift, AIR staff
(* Thanks to investigator Willa Bandler for suggesting the title.)

The great 101 controversy was launched in the July 2001 issue of mini-AIR. A celebrated mathematics professor of our acquaintance asked for help with the following dilemma:

A woman called the math department earlier this year. Her son is in first grade.

The first grade teacher said her son was counting wrong. How is 101 pronounced -- "one hundred one" or "one hundred and one"?

The teacher told the woman to call any mathematician to find out the proper way to say it. I don't know the answer

Below are some of the more and less salient answers sent in by mini-AIR readers.

Depends on how you are using it. If you have 101 buttons, it's one hundred and one buttons. But, if you have 101 dollars, it's one hundred one dollars.
--Melissa R. Hawkins

According to the revered mathematician Ms De Soto, who taught me 7th grade mathematics [in New Zealand], the correct answer is 'one hundred one'. A true mathematician, according to the De Soto School of Pronunciation, never inserts an 'and' into a number. Using an 'and' is a serious faux pas, punishable by Ms. De Soto rolling her eyes, emitting a loud sigh of exasperation, and refusing to comprehend the number until it is pronounced without the 'and'.
--Sally Jo Cunningham


My preference is for "one hundred and one" but I can't say I have a divine mandate for that. Once that's settled, let's work out if he's counting
"wrong" or counting "wrongly."
--Ian Davis

When I went to school, some eons ago in Massachusetts, we were taught **not** to put "and" after the word "hundred." Correct wording would be "one hundred one." Most of the world, apparently, were **not** taught this. In any event, I think a first grader is much too young to be harassed over this sort of thing.
--Shira Paskin

I was always taught that "and" functions as a period in numbers. Thus "one hundred one dollars" is $101.00 but "one hundred and one dollars" is improper.
--Marcia Thornton

I usually pronounce "101" either as "one oh one" since I teach a course called Biometry 101, or as "five", since I have a computer science degree and occasionally think in base 2. By the way, by thinking in base N, you can get a countably infinite number of equally lame jokes.
--David Hiebeler

Here's the Dutch way: 101 = "honderd een" = "hundred one".
It's one one shorter too.
--Louw Feenstra

I was taught by my adored math teacher (albeit in the middle of the last century) that the "and" is used to indicate a decimal point. Thus one hundred and one is the transcription of 100.1. German uses "and" -- "und" -- differently, but in this case it would be the same: "einhunderdeins", whereas 25 is "fuenf und zwanzig" without making it "5.20". Oddly enough, some English-speaking folks in the US and elsewhere do say "twenty and five".
--Alison Brown

"One hundred one" is the proper pronunciation, but not the most common. The "and" should be used only to distinguish dollars and cents. Telling a first grader that they are "counting wrong" is not only counterproductive, but it's extreme and an inappropriate way to each young minds. One should explain the difference between the two, why one is proper and the other is not.
--Debbyann Van Ness

"One hundred one" is the correct way. At least that's what my teachers beat into my head.
--David B. Horvath

Being an engineer, I would opt for efficiency and drop the superfluous "and". In fact, if pure syllabic efficiency is your objective then "one oh
one" is actually the best option although I know mathematicians hate it when one puts letters in one's numbers.
--Jim Spahr

Well, the English teachers come down firmly on both sides of the fence. My authority on this is the web site <> They say that "The number 101 is pronounced differently depending on the context: HWY 101 is pronounced 'one oh one'$101 is pronounced 'one hundred one'or 'one hundred and one.' So there. That settles it!
--C.W.P. Finn

The correct way to say 101 is "one hundred one." You only use "and" to describe numbers that have a decimal point, such as 35.6 ("thirty-five AND six tenths"), or for dollars and cents, such as $24.43 ("twenty-four dollars AND forty-three cents"), or numbers that have fractions attached, such as 10 1/2 ("ten AND one-half," or more commonly, "ten AND a half"). The longer numbers also don't have "and" within their phonetic language descriptions. For example, 1,789,296 is spoken as "one million, seven hundred eighty nine thousand, two hundred ninety-six."
--Paulette Caswell

When my son Jade schooled in Montana it was one hundred one, but here [Australia] it is one hundred and one.
-- Fiona Davies-McConchie

British and Australian English always includes the 'and', though I have heard American English without it; regional differences will occur, and the precepts of descriptive linguistics suggest that if native speakers use a form, then it is, by definiton, correct. Of course, in a language like French (so strictly prescribed by the Academie Francaise as well as the necessities of its grammar), the question would never arise - 101 is always 'cent et un' (one hundred and one). I hope this helps to further cloud the issue,
--Nicholas Bolonkin

When I was in grade school we learned to pronounce the number 101, "one hundred one." (That rule hadn't prevented Abrahams Lincoln from starting his famous speech "Four score *and* seven years ago.") By the time I got to college, all sorts of classes had 3 digit numbers after them. Many of them ended in 101, but here it was pronounced "one oh one." This is even worse, since "oh" is a letter of the alphabet. We should have been saying things like, "I fell asleep again in Philosophy one-zero-one," but that just doesn't have the flow. Realistically language evolves, and I believe that in only 30 years English has evolved to the point where few ever even knew there was a right way or a wrong way to pronounce 101.
--Michael J Fink

In the "New Math" thing that swept the Unites States as a fad in the 1970s, one used to distinguish between "negative one" and "minus one" in a way that now only computer scientists use. It never caught on. The negative one was supposed to be written with a little negation sign raised in front of the number to indicate that it was part of the numeral.
--Gene Chase

I undertook a survey among students and staff in my department. Here are some of the more colorful answers.
---Dr. Matthias Ehrgott, Dept. of Engineering Science, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

I understand that "one hundred one" is the American convention for saying 101. In other English-speaking countries the convention is usually "one hundred and one." [Adrian Croucher]

Is this not just a matter of grammar (in this case English grammar) rather than Mathematics? Ease of pronunciation is probably involved as well. [Don Nield]

Most of the year 3 engineering students think that it's one hundred and one. [Year 3 Students]

Thank you for the opportunity you provided us to, at an early age, affect the root of mathematics. I would like to vote "one hundred one" and if you don't mind recording Mark's vote, he goes for the opposite "one hundred and one". [Golbon Zakeri / Mark Wilson]

In my opinion, it really doesn't matter. However, "one hundred and one" would sounds more comfortable. [Wai]

I say both are correct; the situation is within the definition of what Computer Scientists call a "don't care."
--David Nicol

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