Friday, June 5, 2015

Modern dumbed-down Britain. The Telegraph continues to plumb the depths of innumeracy.

Here was the item on today's Telegraph site (for which this blogger pays £4 per month to access and is now having second thoughts):

No, the exam candidate was not being asked to prove, divorced from any context that "n (squared) -n - 90 =0). 

Yes. The "whole country" may well have been stumped,  understandably so, had that really been  the case.

 But it wasn't.  The candidate was given a simple probability calculation, to do with selecting items from a hat, with a tiny difference from the rote examples, namely that the total number of items in the hat was not stated, but represented as an unknown number ( n).  All that was required was to use the information supplied to calculate an overall probability, expressed with a n term, and equate that with the given probability, and  express the end-result as an equation with n.

It took this blogger 2 minutes at the most to solve (but then he did used to tutor privately in GCSE maths when there was a mortgage to be paid). But it WAS standard maths: no GCSE candidate could expect to get a respectable pass grade if  he or she did not know how to arrive at the correct answer

Yet here we are, with a national daily no less making out that the problem was impossible to solve!

I've criticized the Telegraph before on this site for its appalling lack of numeracy, notably for exaggerating tiny falls in daily sterling currency exchange rates in terms of "plummet".

Send your journalists back to school, Telegraph, for numeracy training. You have become a national embarrassment.

See also the BBC's coverage of this and other 'frightfully difficult' questions.  The frightfully simple solution to the sweets question is visible in the accompanying photo.

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