Funny how often maths comes down to being able to understand the language in the question rather than being able to do the maths.
Seems to me that being good at English is fundamental to being successful in any subject in our current UK system. Makes it very difficult for those who are late starters with reading and lose confidence in their own abilities.
throck Language is very important in math and the teacher would have emphasise the use of small words like OR, AND.... So for the student who is listening the question should be very clear. It seems that the OP's son got it, so no pb there.
"Seems to me that being good at English is fundamental to being successful in any subject in our current UK system. Makes it very difficult for those who are late starters with reading and lose confidence in their own abilities"
I think that you need to first access maths through words, as that is the only path in. As you get increasing feel for number and algebra, there are less and less words. On the other hand, in this instance, the precise meaning of "and" and "or" (and later Boulean "nand" and "nor") are almost like symbols in probability and set theory, so just need to be learned, like any other new bits of maths.
Maths does get a lot of time and effort in schools now, and people who start late should get support to catch up. However, I am not sure how much it really happens. I suspect some of it comes down to what parents do very early with respect to counting, sorting objects, asking "mathematical" type questions etc. I can't prove that, though, and I am sure others are far better able to comment on it.
I agree there are specific meanings for things in maths. But it seems there is very much a tendency for primary school (at least - don't know much about secondary level) maths and science to be very wordy. I'm not saying there shouldn't be some wordy questions - but the balance seems to be tipped too far that way IMO.
Not all people think in words - some people think visually or just in ideas.
You can easily test maths (even in a written exam) without making it a word puzzle which you have to get through before you get to the actual maths.
Although in my opinion the original question was clear and not too wordy. It clearly asks how many found gold and rubies, not how many found gold and how many found rubies (which is not far off the information you were given to start with).
Actually, I think the question was deliberately worded as it is. It's to make you think about the question you are being asked. Almost everyone will do the calculation as you did at first, and you then need to realise that, mathematically, your answer cannot be correct. My daughter, for example, would happily have answered '14' without thinking through to the next step.
SO, if your answer is incorrect, you need to review your interpretation of the question and work out what you are actually being asked. If the question was 'How many pirates found both gold and rubies?', you are spoon-feeding the examinee rather than asking them to really think about what they are being asked.
I do know how venn diagrams work. It's just using them for this seems backwards to me. If there are 8 in the "gold" circle and 6 in the "rubies" circle, that tells you nothing about how many are in the overlapping circle.
Yes it does, your total has to be 12, but 8+6 = 14 so you know 2 must be in the overlapping section.