Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why A Little Knowledge Of Statistics Is So Important

At the school at which I teach, students who complete pre-calculus/trig can go on to take either AP Calculus or statistics. Whenever students ask for my opinion on what they should do, I ask them what they think they'd like to major in. If a student is going into a math/science/engineering field, I recommend calculus. If a student is going into any other field, I recommend statistics.

Perhaps RightWingProf, who periodically reads this blog, would like to comment on why statistics is so important and why a lack of knowledge about statistics is harmful. I'm merely going to accept the statement as fact and move on.

Are you paying too much for your cell phone plan? Maybe not:

The new study of cell-phone bills by the Utility Consumers' Action Network, the San Diego-based group known of late for fighting the Sunrise Powerlink, has won national attention for its claim that the average cost of a cell phone call is $3.02 a minute.

Now I have no love lost for cell-phone companies. I have had nightmarish experiences with my provider. But after reading the 87-page document, I have no choice but to conclude that the UCAN study is breathtaking in the shoddiness of its methodology and is full of calculated deceptiveness. It would be rejected by a community college statistics teacher in under five minutes. It is a sad comment on journalists' inability to do or understand basic math that it has won uncritical coverage from the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor and dozens of other outlets. (boldface mine--Darren)

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