Tag Archives: misleading

Statistics can save lives!

From the lecture presentation I developed my understanding of the fundamental mathematics behind statistics as statistics couldn’t be understood without starting with fundamental basic mathematics. Also, statistics are an example of longitudinal coherence as they give a full picture and can be broken down to basic concepts that were built upon each other which Ma (2010, p.104) states is a profound understanding of fundamental mathematics. In primary school, you are taught how to do tally and other sorts of graphs. The knowledge gained of recording and creating these graphs is built upon in order to create charts for medical reasons. Thus, a profound understanding of fundamental mathematics has major implications, having this knowledge can keep people alive or it can be fatal as child can be poisoned if too high of dose is given to a child (Hothersall, 2016). These drug doses are given per kg.  Therefore, children are weighed so the drug doses can be worked out. Here is a basic concept in maths that is required for use in medicine, weight which involves measurement and this is applied or links to medicine to save lives (Ma, 2010, p. 104).

Furthermore, junior doctors are expected have a profound understanding of fundamental mathematics as they are to know ratios and statistics to do with for example, the risk and probabilities of what one single cigarette can do to you (Hothersall, 2016). Therefore, this part of medicine involves several basic concepts of mathematics such as probabilities, ratio, change and recording (Ma, 2010, p.104). Even breaking your leg requires knowledge of the basic concepts as it’s due to forces and the angle, the speed that something might hit your leg at to break it (Porta, D.J).

However, maths should be taught in a fun and relevant way as it’s important to show the relevance of maths and helping them see that maths in science. So, when you are doing a fun experiment in class, help them see its fun. Maths is fun so inspire their love and interest in maths. I also want to help develop pupil’s knowledge of profound understanding by demonstrating this example of longitudinal coherence to them. The importance and relevance of statistics or why we learn the basics in maths like making graphs. I know that when I went to school I was learning how to draw tan graphs but I saw no point in learning it because I was not told the relevance.

An interesting point is that statistics links to social media. For public health reasons, there is an “Ailment Topic Aspect Model” that has prior knowledge of ailments. This model the analyses tweets to search and track sickness or illness over a period of time by “…measuring behaviour risk factors, locating illness by geographical region, and analysing symptoms and medication usage.” (Paul and Dredze, no date, p.1). However, a weakness of using twitter for statistics is that surely many people don’t tweet seriously, they may exaggerate their problems, they could be lying for a laugh or attention seeking. Furthermore, many account are private so how are all the tweets from these accounts accounted for in their data? What if the majority of information about a recent illness is on these accounts? Additionally, the symptoms that people might state on twitter could potentially be too vague.

A drawback should be noted about statistics. Although they can be useful and save lives, they are not always correct. There is such a thing as bias statistics especially in advertisement. For example, Colgate toothpaste claimed that 80% of dentists recommended Colgate but this was misleading as dentists were given a list of options to choose which toothpaste in comparison to the other competitors (Derbyshire, 2007). Therefore, fundamental mathematics can be used in a negative way in wider society. Therefore, In the future I would like to teach children that they need to critically evaluate statics and use multiple perspectives to look at the different ways statistics could be looked at as different perspectives can tell you different things (Ma, 2010, p. 104).

The video below gives some examples of negative uses of statistics (TED-Ed, 2016).


In conclusion, statistics are an example of how fundamental mathematics such as longitudinal coherence can be applied to wider societal issues.  A drawback to statistics is that they can be misleading however, they can also help save lives and this is why learning mathematics is important!

List of references:

Derbyshire, D. (2007) ‘Colgate gets the brush off for ‘misleading’ ads’, The Telegraph, 17 January. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1539715/Colgate-gets-the-brush-off-for-misleading-ads.html (Accessed: 15 November 2017).

Hothersall, E. (2016) ‘Numeracy: Every contact counts (or something)’ [PowerPoint presentation]. ED21006: Discovering Mathematics (Year 2) (17/18) Available at: https://my.dundee.ac.uk/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_56905_1&content_id=_4941433_1&mode=reset (Accessed 9 November 2017).

Ma, L. (2010) Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics: teachers’ understanding of fundamental mathematics in China and United States. (Anniversary Ed.) New York: Routledge.

Paul, M. J., and Dredze, M. (no date) You Are What You Tweet: Analyzing Twitter for Public Health. Available at: http://www.cs.jhu.edu/~mpaul/files/2011.icwsm.twitter_health.pdf (Accessed: 9 November 2017).

Porta, D.J. (no date) Biomechanics of Impact Injury Available at: http://eknygos.lsmuni.lt/springer/659/279-310.pdf (Accessed: 9 November 2017).

TED-Ed (2016) How statistics can be misleading – Mark Liddell. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxYrzzy3cq8 (Accessed: 15 November 2017).