Posts filed under “Really, really bad calls”

Got Math? Odds Are, You Don’t Understand Probabilities

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

 

 

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Bad Math, Data Analysis, Really, really bad calls

Ponzi Scheme Tracker

Cool data collection

Category: Investing, Legal, Psychology, Really, really bad calls

Wrong Way Plosser

Hawks Crying Wolf: Charles Plosser of the Philadephia Fed; if you’ve been following these things, you know that Plosser has been warning about imminent inflation since the beginning of the crisis. He did it in 2008; he did it in 2009; he did it in 2010; he did it in 2011; I’m getting tired here,…Read More

Category: Federal Reserve, Inflation, Really, really bad calls

A Data Junkie Looks at the News

Many years ago, when I was a poor and humble graduate student, I taught the prep course for students taking the GMATs and LSATs. I understood the internal logic and game theory needed to succeed on standardized tests, and could explain techniques used to do well on them. One of the keys to succeeding on…Read More

Category: Data Analysis, Investing, Markets, Really, really bad calls

One Cheer for Fair Isaac

Sometimes we don’t know exactly how broken things are until after they get fixed. Case in point: Fair Isaac Corp., the company that created the model used to calculate the scores underlying millions of consumer loan and credit decisions. The New York Times described Fair Isaac’s formula as “one of the most widely used and…Read More

Category: Credit, Economy, Really, really bad calls

The Idiots of San Diego County’s Pension Investment Committee

It’s a basic form of storytelling, used in countless books and movies: Two people, in similar circumstances, confronted by difficult choices. One does what is right, even if it seems like the harder choice. He fights through the many challenges, has moments of self-doubt and worry, before ultimately being rewarded. The other takes the easy…Read More

Category: Investing, Really, really bad calls

How Greenspan Became the ex-Maestro

On this day in 1987, Alan Greenspan became chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. This anniversary allows us to take a quick look at what followed over the next two decades. As it turned out, it was one of the most interesting and, to be blunt, weirdest tenures ever for a Fed chairman. This was…Read More

Category: Bailouts, Federal Reserve, Markets, Really, really bad calls

Why The Ukraine Headline Does Not Pass The Sherlock Holmes Test

I mentioned on Tuesday afternoon that I did not believe the market weakness was due to Ukraine Russia tensions. From Art Cashin, UBS head of floor trading, and a 5o-year veteran of the NYSE floor, expresses the sentiment much more eloquently than I:   One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other – Or…Read More

Category: Markets, Really, really bad calls

Last month, I spilled a considerable number of pixels explaining why Rupert Murdoch’s Time Warner bid had no significance to whether or not this is a market top. My short list included complaints of cherry picked data that somehow ignored most of Murdoch’s M&A activity over the past half century; a laughably small sample size…Read More

Category: Cognitive Foibles, Investing, Markets, Psychology, Really, really bad calls, Trading

Our Self-Inflicted Economic Wounds

In sports, all great competitors know that they have a choice, even when confronted with daunting, insurmountable odds. They can lay down and let the larger, stronger opponent run up the score. Or they can find a way to compete, to make a game of it. A good loss is a dignified way to show…Read More

Category: Investing, Really, really bad calls, Taxes and Policy