Posts filed under “Bad Math”
Last week, we discussed the problems with having poor reading comprehension and the impact that has on consuming news. This week, I want to look at the lack of math skills.
America seems to becoming a dangerously innumerate society. Innumeracy is incompetence with numbers rather than words. This is a worrisome issue for the future competitiveness of the U.S.
I first encountered the word in a 2001 book, “Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences,” by Temple University math professor John Allen Paulos.
This has been an issue for quite a while, but it blossomed into view again earlier this summer in a New York Times magazine article, “Why Do Americans Stink at Math?” The deficiencies outlined are striking:
A 2012 study comparing 16-to-65-year-olds in 20 countries found that Americans rank in the bottom five in numeracy. On a scale of 1 to 5, 29 percent of them scored at Level 1 or below, meaning they could do basic arithmetic but not computations requiring two or more steps. One study that examined medical prescriptions gone awry found that 17 percent of errors were caused by math mistakes on the part of doctors or pharmacists. A survey found that three-quarters of doctors inaccurately estimated the rates of death and major complications associated with common medical procedures, even in their own specialty areas.
It is more than anecdotal: Fewer and fewer people are familiar with even the most rudimentary mathematics. People are too easily confused by simple figures. My favorite example is how many people believe that a 100 billion is more than 10 trillion (because, you know, 100 is bigger than 10). Continues here
From Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, a short primer on separating lies from statistics: 1. Focus on how robust a finding is, meaning that different ways of looking at the evidence point to the same conclusion. Do the same patterns repeat in many data sets, in different countries, industries or eras? 2. Results that…Read More
This column is not about working too hard, or the dangers of high cholesterol, or lack of exercise. It is about a rash of suicides within the financial community. What this actually means is less certain than the reporting on it might imply. Yesterday, 47-year-old Edmund Reilly, a trader at the Vertical Group, jumped in…Read More
Category: Bad Math
Five years ago today, I made the luckiest market call of my career. A few details and some context first, than an explanation as to why this was so lucky. In 2005, I knew something was amiss in the global markets. The various metrics we track showed that credit had become a full on bubble,…Read More
One of the things that baffles me about people is how they completely misunderstand risk. Lots of my friends panic about things that have no real chance of killing them, but ignore the things that will. This can lead us to make irrational decisions, and sometimes irrational policy. What really will kill us? Watch and learn.
What Kills Us? How We Understand Risk.
I never really liked the classic definition of boomers as those born 1946 to 1964. Its overbroad, and well, wrong. That age cohort should really end in 1959. I see why they Demographers made up that range — its so there is a seamless, artificial flow right into to the Gen X group, born 1965…Read More