Teaching Quantitative Reasoning with the News PNW-MAA NExT 2010 Quantitative Literacy Is Necessary For: • Personal welfare and quality of life – Health, – Safety – Financial Planning • Our collective well being – Social decission making – Functioning of democratic society Carefully lifted from: Achieving Quantitative Literacy by Lynn Steen BUT…. • Many educated adults remain functionally innumerate – This hasn’t changed in 25+ years. – There is a noticeable “gap” for minority groups More (algebra?), Trig and Calculus Is not the answer!! Rather,… We need to give students the tools to • Think for themselves, • Ask intelligent questions of experts, and to • Confront authority confidently Politely borrowed from Mathematics and Democracy How? Assumption: much of our information comes from reading/listening/watching the news. So… Design a course to develop the power and habit of mind to search out quantitative information, critique it, reflect upon it, and apply it to one's public, personal, and professional life. Q: Can a college level mathematics class be designed around the critical analysis of newspaper articles? If “no”, then….Done. If “yes”, then • How to design the course? • How to get the articles and study questions? • What topics/skills could be covered? • What topics/skills would not be covered? 1. Look through some newspapers to find articles which deal with quantitative information. 2. Discuss answers to the above two questions. Example 1 Working with large numbers How Big is 1 trillion? (or any other large number) Comparing using ratios, percents, units which make sense. Example 2 Tax Rates Comparing numbers: units Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – July 10, 2003 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - June30, 2003 Way off on his point Taxpayer airs his woes Re the letter from Bob Massery of Little Rock on his taxpayer Re the letter that Roger Bresnahan of Hot woes: Who taught this man math? Springs Village: I’m one of theses people who He says since he make $30,000 a year and pays $5,000 in taxes, make less than $30,000 a year. I pay almost $5,000 he pays $6 on $1,000, while a guy making $200,000 and paying a year in federal income tax. $53,000 in taxes is paying only $3.77 on $1,000. He says a person making $200,000 a year pays Let me redo the math for him. He is paying $166.67 per $1,000 in $53,000 in federal tax a year. So, my friend, a taxes and the rich guy is paying $265 per $1,000 in taxes. Not only is person [making] $30,000, pays $6 on $1,000: a his math way off, he is way off on his point that the rich man pays a person making $200,000 pays $3.77 on $1,000. lower tax rate. I wish I was one of those unlucky people paying Depending on the size of Massery’s family, he probably is getting $53,000 [so] I could also take my family out to eat every night and put it on an expense account. Oh, most of the tax back as a refund – unless he’s using the same style math on his tax return as he did in his letter. woe is me. PHILLIP BASINGER BOB MASSERY Springdale Little Rock Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – July 15, 2003 Correcting tax figures Re the letter from Bob Massery, “Taxpayer airs his woes”: I am sure that Massery’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – July 9, 2003 heart is in the right place, but his math is not. Taxes confuse everyone He claims that a person making $30,000 a year pays federal taxes of $6 on every Re Bob Massery”s letter and his observation $1,000 of income and that his tax bill is $5,000. He claims that a person making that he, paying almost $5,000 federal income $200,000 a year pays federal taxes of $3.77 on every $1,000 of income and his tax bill tax on $30,000 income, paid $6 per $1,000 and is $53,000. His implication is that all of this is unfair. someone else, paying $53,000 on $200,000 Let’s do the math correctly and see what’s fair. I will use the numbers he provided income, paid only $3.77 per $1,000: I think his in his letter. Five thousand dollars of taxes on $30,000 of income is not $6 per $1,000, numerators and denominators are mixed up. He it is $166.67 per $1,000. That represents 16.7 percent of that person’s income. paid $1 tax for every $6 income. The other Fifty-three thousand dollars of taxes on $200,000 is not $3.77 per $1,000, it is person paid $1 tax for every $3.7 income. $265 per $1,000. That represents 26.5 percent of that person’s income. Figuring taxes is enough to confuse any of us, Fair or unfair? Depends on whom you ask. However, if we are to debate the regardless of income. relative merits of this or that tax code proposal, let’s at least start with correct numbers. ANN PIERCE Pine Bluff BILLY HERRINGTON Maumelle Example 3 Language Comparing numbers: percents (numerators and denominators) , graphics Men ages 16 to 24 who were incarcerated in 2006-7 High school dropouts: ____ % High school students: ____ High school graduates: ____ 1 to 3 years of college: ____ College students: ____ B.A. degree or higher: ____ Male high school dropouts ages 16 to 24 who were incarcerated in 2006-7 Black: ____% Asian: ____ White: ____ Hispanic: ____ Study Finds High Rate of Imprisonment Among Dropouts By SAM DILLON Published: October 8, 2009 On any given day, about one in every 10 young male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention, compared with one in 35 young male high school graduates, according to a new study of the effects of dropping out of school in an America where demand for low-skill workers is plunging. Example 4 Comparing numbers: dollars (and politics) Example 5 Comparing numbers: risk (relative, absolute) Personal health: false positives, survival rates v. death rates The Great Prostate Mistake By RICHARD J. ABLIN Published: March 9, 2010 The annual bill for P.S.A. screening is at least $3 billion, with much of it paid for by Medicare and the Veterans Administration. American men have a 16 percent lifetime chance of receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer, but only a 3 percent chance of dying from it. … testing could detect 3.8 percent of prostate cancers. The results from the American study show that over a period of 7 to 10 years, screening did not reduce the death rate in men 55 and over.
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