July 21st, 2008
Categories: General

Those Who Fear Numbers Fear Life


There’s a fascinating article on the BBC this week about knife crime, and a correlation between the fear of knife crime and the fear of maths.

In the UK, knife crime is an epidemic, with every young adolescent male carrying a knife ready to cut, stab and maim you open if you look at them funny. Knives are the new law enforcement, and the police are powerless to stop it.

Or so the papers say.

Now don’t get me wrong, whilst one death is a tragedy and I would hate my brothers or any of my family or friends meeting their deaths in such tragic fashions, I’m refusing to believe it’s that bad.

Why? Because I know the statistics.

If you read the article, you will find that since 1995, the overall crime rate has dropped 42%, and a report published last month stated “The evidence on knife crime contains a number of ambiguities, but combining the various data sets, a rather clearer picture emerges. Despite increased media attention, levels of knife crime have remained fairly stable at around 6-7% of all violent crime.”.

The article goes on to talk about something which I believe in – why are people so scared to embrace maths? Hearing people say “I’m no good at maths”, “I don’t do numbers” and similar sentances makes me dismayed. It’s something written in the british psyche that maths is hard and should be avoided at all costs. The media knows this and takes advantage of it.

Little example, not about knife crime. A few weeks ago there was this piece on the news that a third of accidents on the road are caused by drivers under the age of 35. Immediately the media picked up on it, and said young people should be banned from driving.

Lets think about it though, a third of accidents are caused by people under the age of 35. That means that two thirds of them are caused by drivers over the age of 35. If we assume that at the age of 65 people drive a lot less (because they don’t go to work, free bus pass etc.), then the

Of course, I use stats to prove my point, but people could use stats to disprove me, which is exactly what the media is doing at the moment to prove knife crime is out of control.

I’m not saying that everybody should be able to work out a quadratic equation in their head, or indeed be able to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem, but I believe that everybody should be able to do simple sums, and at least know how to work out percentages. Because at the moment, a lot of the maths people use have actually been worked out to prove a point, and people are believing it.

You wouldn’t believe it if people said “1+1=3″, but I fear that’s what happening at the moment.

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