Teach the Math People Really Use: Probability and Statistics

Ever use that algebra and calculus you learned in high school? Most people don’t, I’ll bet. But every day we make decisions or encounter information involving odds and numerical evidence. Play poker? Buy a lottery ticket? Decide to fly or drive? Read a story about how married people live longer? Or how a drug cuts the risk of a rare disease 15 percent? Have to ponder some chart about returns on stock funds? Read about some demographic trend? All sounds pretty familiar. But most of us are ill-equipped to fathom this stuff, and we wind up making bad decisions. Blood test come back positive? Don’t panic. Get it done again. Do you know that even if a test is 99 percent reliable, chances could be 50-50 your result is wrong? (Say 1 person in 101 gets the illness. That’s the 1 correct positive. But of those other 100, 1 person will get a false positive. Which means half of all the positives are wrong!) Not saying sophisticated equations are the point. Just enough math coupled with a lot of logic. Look at how much money, health, safety and even lives are on the line! Unless you’re designing planes, bridges or buildings, can you say that about calculus?

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