Education

Statistical Superstar

November 11, 2008 1 min read

Math teachers can now point their students to a new role model and say, “See, math does pay off!” Surprising election-season standout Nate Silver, the insanely accurate statistician behind election polling Web site FiveThirtyEight.com, was obsessed with math as a child, reports The New York Times.

Mr. Silver started FiveThirtyEight (named after the number electoral votes up for grabs in a presidential election) in March of 2008. His predictions were remarkably accurate. He was within one percentage point of the popular vote and correctly called 49 of 50 states and all of the resolved senate races. Before his foray into political analysis, Mr. Silver worked as a baseball statistician, bringing in new techniques for analyzing old statistics and predicting new ones.

Mr. Silver was a math nerd long before anyone was paying him to be, however. According to The New York Times, “By kindergarten, he could multiply two-digit numbers in his head. By 11, he was conducting multivariate analysis to figure out if the size of a baseball stadium affects attendance (it doesn’t). By age 13, he was using statistics to manage a fantasy baseball team.”

Why would a statistician make a good role model for teachers to use in a field that’s struggling to engage students? Mr. Silver’s mathematical prowess landed him guest-analyst spots on MSNBC, CNN, Fox, and The Colbert Report. He also served as an election night analyst on Dan Rather Reports.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.