The wrong type of math

August 31, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More

In this three-minute talk, Mathemagician Art Benjamin urges that we change our emphasis when we teach our children math. I couldn’t agree with him more.

It saddens me to consider the immense amount of self-inflicted damage that Americans could have avoided, if only they were more savvy regarding probability and statistics. For example, very few Americans die of “terrorism,” whereas the lives of millions of Americans are severely damaged or destroyed every year by crappy schools, lack of health care (including the failure to obtain colonoscopies), wars begun on the basis of lies, various risky behaviors and many other problems almost too many to mention, all of which leave the actual danger of “terrorism” in the dust. Yet Americans spend a massively lop-sided portion of their tax-dollars each year preventing “terrorism.” Each of the serious causes of death we face would be much more preventable if only Americans had a better grasp of statistics and probability.    With better training in statistics and probabilities, Americans could better understand the risks that they faced and the probabilities of success of various proposed “solutions.”   With better training, as Art Benjamin suggests, we would be better able to order our national priorities to better prevent the things that are most likely to harm us.

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Category: Education, Statistics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. The logic of the argument is most refreshing. The question of what are we trying to achieve in our schools can be addressed to virtually all disciplines, but this one really nails it.

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