Free-form entry eg: '125000km', '1.5 million inches', '$67bn', '45000000 AUD', 100years', '123456789', '1 trillion', '1.5e6', '25 million kg'
It’s been reported that air pollution kills 40,000 people in the UK every year. That’s a big number, but is it trustworthy? David Spiegelhalter, President of the Royal Statistical Society, teases apart the numbers.
Take a set of numbers collected from “the wild”. You might take company profits, city population statistics, street numbers or odometer readings. How many of the numbers in your set start with “1″? how many with “2″? with “3″?, “4″? …
Amazing as it sounds, these leading digits are NOT evenly distributed but follow a pattern (30% “1″s, down to less than 5% “9″s). This pattern is so reliable, it’s been used in fraud detection, to trap companies cooking their books: the invented numbers did not follow Benford’s Law.
Follow the link for a fascinating explanation of why this is so.
This thought-provoking blog post accurately describes one of the most important reasons for mathematical (and other) education: for the habits of thought and not always only for the content.
Numeracy, and a numerate approach to understanding the world, becomes a habit also. Keep asking: “is that a big number?”
Jules Verne sent Phileas Fogg around the world in 80 days, but how far is that anyway? How fast would he have had to travel? How long would it take today to go around the world?
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