09 January 2009

Spiegelhalter on "risk literacy"

Probability lessons may teach children how to weigh life’s odds and be winners, from The Times (London), January 5. David Spiegelhalter, of Cambridge University, claims that people need a better understanding of probability and statistics -- not in order to do mathematics, but to help them out in everyday life. He describes what needs to be taught as "risk literacy".

I agree. Much of the curriculum in US schools (the article is about British schools, but from what I can tell this is true there as well) basically seems to be set up so that students will be prepared to learn calculus either at the end of high school or right at the beginning of college. But there's so much more than calculus. And so many of the numbers people run into every day are probabilities or statistics of some sort.


Anonymous said...

I'd much rather see students learning probability and statistics, as well as general mathematical problem-solving and logic, than calculus. Calculus is certainly a powerful tool for solving a wide variety of problems, and there are plenty of careers where it's useful, but most people will not have any use for it in their everyday lives.

Anonymous said...

there's so much more than calculus

I'd go further and say that there's not much less useful to most people than calculus.