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Numerical Literacy

While the Internet provides huge databases which could fill spreadsheets as large as a football field, it does little good to visit such sites unless students know how to "crunch" the numbers, interpreting the huge databases with mathematical tools and reasoning. We must teach them to recognize the questions that reside within such data collections along with the skills to pose and explore such questions.

It is not enough to gather information. Students must know how to interpret the information.

How Bad is Violent Crime?

Politicians often run on platforms that make crime a major issue. Sometimes they seem to exaggerate the true situation. The press and the media sometimes make matters worse.

"The number of homicides taking place in Australia annually is largely overestimated by most people. There are far less murders taking place than people think."

(see article from Australia)

What are the trends in Australia? Is violent crime getting worse?

It is your job to look with your partner at the following data sources, interpret the data and then make (and defend) a reasoned choice of the following three statements:

  1. Violent crime is becoming a bigger and more serious problem in Australia.
  2. Violent crime is becoming a smaller and less serious problem in Australia.
  3. Violent crime has remained relatively stable during the past decade.
AB S Statistics

Open your word processor, paste the statement you have selected in a document and then build a case with the numbers you have found, combining sentences and charts as appropriate. Be prepared to argue your side of the issue when the full group shares its findings.

Numeracy Resources

Chance and Data in the News

EdNA Online's Theme Pages for Schools - Literacy & Numeracy    

Back UP Activity

1. Go with your partner to the New Haven County and then open a second window in Netscape (from FILE menu) and go to Fairfield County - Connecticut County Data available from the US Census. Adjust the two windows so the numbers line up side by side for comparison purposes.

2) Use the information about these two counties in Connecticut to decide which one you might prefer as a place to live: Fairfield County or New Haven County? Write your choice and your reasons in your learning log.

3) Which are the most important numbers? Why? Could you chart them? How would a chart help to crunch the numbers? Which numbers are missing here that would have helped you make a choice?

4) In your learning log, write your thoughts about the following: What does it mean to "read" numbers? How does a spreadsheet help us to read them?


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