This post was inspired by Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, where he analyzes online data to find out that people who prefer beer are more likely to have sex on a first date. Join From Left to Write on October 9th as we discuss Dataclysm. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
It is wonderful to sit down and examine the numbers behind our thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Numbers, numbers, numbers. I really like numbers. I am the kind of person who does Calculus for fun at home when I am bored. (Though with four kids, a husband, a dog and a cat, I don’t get bored often.) Often people are surprised to learn I like numbers because I like reading and writing so much.
Almost everyone knows the word “illiterate” which is the word used to describe a person who is unable to read or write. The word is commonly known because in most circles people are expected to be able to read and write. Fewer people know the word “innumerate” which is the word used to describe a person who does not have a basic knowledge of mathematics. It is interesting to talk with people who are illiterate and innumerate. In my circle and sphere of travel, people who are illiterate are ashamed and do not want people to know they are illiterate. Being illiterate is often a source of shame or embarrassment. Things are very different when I talk with people who are innumerate. People in my circle and sphere of travel laugh at their innumeracy. They feel no shame or embarrassment about not understanding numbers, mathematical concepts and the use and manipulation of numbers.
Numerical fluency and understanding of basic mathematical concepts are actually important. Numeracy is the difference between understanding the statistics that get thrown around and being fooled by them. I am not suggesting that everyone needs to do Calculus for entertainment. (I do recognize that is weird and nerdy, but I like it.) But, we all need to have some basic math knowledge in our tool belts. While I am never called upon to use what I learned in trigonometry, I use ratio and proportion almost every day of my life. I use it to figure out how many stitches I should use in knitting since the yarn I am using is different from what the pattern recommends. I use ration and proportion to figure out how much water I should add when making grits when I make 3 servings instead of the 1,2 or 4 servings that have instructions on the box. Ratio and proportion is my favorite thing from all my math classes.
Numbers are important and they are all around us all the time. If you are not as good at math as you would like them to be, go online or open a book and do the work to get your skills where you want them to be. Almost everyone can learn math and get comfortable with numbers. Numbers don’t have to be scary, you can learn to master them. Take time today to start working on your numeracy. A month from now, you will be glad you did!
In conclusion, it is wonderful to sit down and examine the numbers behind our thoughts, ideas, and opinions. So, the question for you this wonderful day is, what do you do when confronted with the numbers in a situation?