Well, yes, but….

Pupils in every secondary school should be taught the statistical skills they need to make sensible life decisions, one of Britain’s leading mathematicians says.

A basic grasp of statistics and probability — “risk literacy” – is critical to making choices about health, money and even education, yet it is largely ignored by the national curriculum, according to the UK’s only Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk.

Why not start by educating journalists? They certainly need it…..

5 comments on “Well, yes, but….

  1. The article says: “There was a recent story about a family in Gloucestershire with three children all born on January 29. We were contacted by a journalist and asked what are the chances of this happening.

    “The chances are about one in 135,000, or seven in a million. But there are a million families with three children in the UK. So it’s almost certain that this family is not unique and when the story went online, someone wrote in and said, ‘I was born on the same day as my two brothers’.”

    But possibly it’s an even higher probability than this, don’t you think, in that if a family has two children born on the same day they might be inclined to try to have another (to the extent this is possible), so the 1/365 might be multiplied by something rather lower.

    Tim adds: Did cross my mind actually, that the timing of a child is not an independent matter. There’s things like recovery from childbirth itself, the contraceptive effects of lactation. We could even go further and mutter about certain people getting frisky at certain times of the year. I think you’re right, it’s going to be less than 1:365.

  2. If people better understood that twice bugger all is still bugger all (and that correlation doe not prove causation), journalists would be robbed of all those headlines along the lines of ‘picking nose leads to 43% likelihood of early onset baldness’. Politicians would also be robbed of endless excuses to interfere in our lives, especially if people understood about regression to the mean.

  3. Beyond the claimed desirable statistical skills, they might profit even more from a clearer understanding of the gap between what Taleb calls “Mediocristan” and “Extremistan”.

    But who am I kidding? There’s no chance the Mediocristan-leaning risk analysts will even give lip service to the likelihood, or even the prospect, of many aspects of life having inconvenient distributions…

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