In a world drenched in data, we must ensure that students know the meaning of numbers.
Our world is awash in numbers. Headlines report the latest interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve, hikes or drops in gasoline prices, trends in student test scores, results of local and national elections, risks of dying from colon cancer, this season's baseball statistics, and numbers of refugees from the latest ethnic war.
Quantitative thinking abounds, not only in the news but also in the workplace, in education, and in nearly every field of human endeavor. Anyone who wishes can obtain data about the risks of medications, per-student expenditures in local school districts, projections for the federal budget surplus, and an almost endless array of other concerns.
If put to good use, this unprecedented access to numerical information will place more power in the hands of individuals and serve as a stimulus to democratic discourse and civic decisionmaking. Without understanding, however, access to this information can mystify rather than enlighten the public. If individuals lack the ability to think numerically, they cannot participate fully in civic life, thereby bringing into question the very basis of government "of, by,...
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