Statisticians and Significant Numbers

First of all, I’d like to apologize for my longer weekend, I’m going to go ahead and post three infographics now, and while I’m not perfect, we can hope I won’t do it again.

Second of all, I did not take statistics, I was not a math major, but after a few minutes I thought this was a clever graphic. It would be a great way to introduce statistics and tie it to social sciences.

There are a lot of terms in math, and it is difficult to keep them all straight. The term “significant numbers” can go with nearly any concept, and it is often difficult to remember that it has to do with statistics. For instance, the head count in a classroom is a significant number to a teacher, as is the number of females if trying to figure out how many males. But in this instance, I can deduce that it has to do with the number of places one can estimate.

Here are two examples that may be helpful to students. A person familiar with schools walks around a school and may estimate that there are 400 students in the school at a single time. This is only one significant number. But, the principal can estimate 430, know how many are enrolled and how many may be absent on any given day. This is two significant numbers.

In this graphic, a news anchor is announcing the number of people that have perished possibly from an accident. If the person was simply looking from the sky, or the accident had just occurred and rescue crews were not finished searching, this number may be far fetched. At such a high number a group could have burrowed into some place safe, or not been where they were expected. However, if the accident occurred some time before this, the estimator had a head count (such as a manifest) and searches had been completed and wreckage cleared, it could be very possible for someone to estimate down to this amount.

Give your students situations such as this (maybe the number of animals at a zoo, something not so horrid), and ask the students to tell how the person was able to estimate the total. The answer may go along the lines of, they walked around and saw that there was an average of five animals per habitat, and there were about 20 different kinds of animals.



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