Consider this question:
“If you had it to do over again, would you have children?”
This question was posed in the syndicated column of Ann Landers in newspapers quite a few years ago. After collecting responses for a period of time, her column headlined, “70% OF PARENTS SAY KIDS NOT WORTH IT.”
What would you think if you read these statistics? Many young couples might begin to rethink their ideas about the advantage of having children.
If you know your statistics, you would know that there is a fatal flaw in this information.
Who responds to such a question? Well, usually individuals with very strong viewpoints will take the time to submit a response, and the viewpoint will usually be negative. The problem, then, is that in this case the responders chose themselves. Are their responses representative of parents at large?
No. This type of data collection is called “voluntary response,” and since those who responded were not chosen randomly, the results have no validity.
In fact, a few months later a random poll indicated just the opposite viewpoint. When parents were chosen at random to respond, over ninety percent indicated that they WOULD have children again.
The pursuit of truth is the pursuit of God’s heart, for He is Truth. Statistics enriches students with tools to demand the proper procedures for collecting information and for the accurate assessment of the data. Data collected with methods that avoid bias more likely will yield results that reflect reality. Students need statistics as they confront an increasingly relativistic world. We need to give our students tools that empower them to demand accountability from those who present “facts” in this post-modern culture.
(Example was recorded in THE PRACTICE OF STATISTICS by Yates, Moore, and McCabe, 1999, W. H. Freeman and Company, pp. 245-246.)
Phyllis Linton is a veteran teacher of over 30 years, including twenty-five years’ experience in public high school education, experience teaching in two Christian schools, and overseas experience teaching at Han Nam University in Taejon, Korea. She has taught a variety of math classes ranging from Algebra I to Advanced Placement Statistics, as well as life science and English. She earned National Board Certification and has served as a national advanced placement grade reader for the College Board. A National Merit finalist in high school, she holds undergraduate degrees from Mississippi College and from the University of North Alabama, where, as well, she earned a Master of Arts in Education. She completed summer coursework at the University of North Carolina in Asheville and at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In 2007 she won the Alabama District 7 Secondary Teacher of the Year award. With degrees both in biology and in mathematics, she inaugurated a statistics program over ten years ago at Florence High School. She enjoys statistics with its interdisciplinary component and the logical thinking necessary for analysis. An active member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Florence, Alabama, she has four grown children and seven grandchildren.
If you are interested in learning more about the courses that Phyllis teaches, you can find the Statistics course that she teaches HERE in the 2015-16 course listing. Or if you'd like to view other courses that are offered, you can find them HERE.
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