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Milo said...
Posted:
Aug 8, 2006 9:15 AM


Milo said:
Consider these phrases: 1. The percentage of men who are smokers 2. The percentage of men among smokers This is the difference between P(SmokerMan) and P(ManSmoker) where the vertical bar means "given that."
Consider these two statements: 3. Widows are more likely among suicides than widowers. 4. Widows are more likely to commit suicide than widowers. The first compares P(WidowSuicide) with P(WidowerSuicide). The second compares P(SuicideWidow) with P(SuicideWidower).
Interestingly, with the exception of the use of the term "percentage", these are not mathematical statements and can be understood, parsed, demonstrated with diagrams, or otherwise understood with literate skills only. In my view, having numerate skills neither adds nor subtracts to the capability of a literate person to see the difference between statements 1 & 2, and statements 3 & 4. If, however, the sentences after the numbered items in both cases were the only information provided with no hints, cues, or definition of the terms, innumerate individuals would be unlikely to understand the difference. In teaching math, we can assume (or not) literacy on the part of the student, but if I state something "mathematical" and I see eyes rolling back in the head, yawns, eruptions of discussions, 10 hands fly up in the air, etc. then I think that I have to recast what I said in understandable terms; I have to work to identify if it was the math or the English (or both or just me!) that caused the lack of understanding . later, mark
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