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replying to Milo's inquiry
Posted:
Aug 14, 2006 8:43 AM



> 3. Widows are more likely among suicides than widowers. > 4. Widows are more likely to commit suicide than widowers.
Hi Milo,
I really like this dialogue because not only do I have to think about what everyone is saying, I have to deal with your making me reflect on my own thoughts.
Let me use the above two statements to explore this a little further.
I contend that no numeracy is necessary to realize that statement 3 and 4 say different things. "More likely" is not only a mathematical relationship (as we see it) but it is first and foremost a language statement. Do literate people understand it? I suppose so. Would a nonnumerate comparison be possible to further understand it, in the sense of really knowing the groups in which the categories exist? Widows are one group; suicides another and widowers the third. How do they compare with each other? Are any subgroups (not mathematical groups) of the other? Are they separate and distinct? Could I draw a picture showing how they relate to each other? (Yes, a Venn diagram would be handy but a literate person could draw circles and map this out without "knowing" it was a Venn diagram). If you could get sets of literate/innumerate, illiterate/innumerate, literate/numerate. illiterate/numerate and manage to conduct a controlled experiment, it would be interesting to see the outcomes. i'm not quite sure what I would predict because it would be hard to identify the questions to ask.
I won't pursue this ad nauseum at this point, but I hope my little foray into this example helps detail a little of what I perceive to be a difference between literacy and numeracy. I don't deny the critical nature of necessary and inescapable overlap in some cases, but I am a little cautious in generalizing obvious cases from ones which are more subtle, and in this case (i think), more subtle than I had first suspected ... later, mark



