Public Awareness of Simple Maths


Well, I know statistics combinatorics is a hard subject for many people -- odds and probabilities and all that -- but a reporter at The New York Times should not need to contact a mathematician to perform simple division.

In's 2006 Men's College Basketball Tournament Challenge, Pleasant had one of the four entries among three million with U.C.L.A., Louisiana State, Florida and George Mason in the Final Four.
Could you rephrase that, please?
Mike Breen, a mathematician ["public awareness officer"] at the American Mathematical Society in Providence, R.I., said the chances of correctly picking the Final Four in's contest this year were about 1 in 750,000.
Is there a rule at the Times that a reporter must have simple calculations performed by an outside authority? In defense of Mr. Breen, I gather that his full comments were far more substantive than what was quoted.


"I know statistics is a hard subject for many people..."

I know terminology is a hard subject for many people, but this isn't a statistics problem; it's a combinatorics problem.

There is a difference between the probability of one picking the the final four correctly, and the number of entries in a particular event that happen to have picked the final four correctly.

Or, to put the point differently, it isn't necessarily the case that dividing the number of correct entries by the size of the population of entries would produce an accurate calculation of the probability of producing a correct entry.


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This page contains a single entry by Kevin published on March 28, 2006 10:17 AM.

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