CAUTION: The Scariest Thing EVER

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

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There are many ways to terrify people. Put a spider on their shoulder, make them stand close to the edge of a cliff, tell them you’re going to visit the in-laws (ftr, mine are great). Different people are scared of different things. There does, however, seem to be one fear that transcends other fears – the fear of statistics and numbers.

How did this come to be? Were our math teachers horrible people? I doubt it (though one of mine was and that’s a whole seperate post). Were we threatened with having to do extra math if we didn’t finish our brussel sprouts? Doubt that too.

Here’s my theory. Remember english class where you wrote a beautiful essay and the teacher gave you an A? That A didn’t mean perfect, it meant great job. However, you never got an A in math. You got an 80%. In other words, you got 80% right, and 20% horribly, horribly wrong. You failed at 20%. You sucked for 20%. Even though you did a great job, you still managed to screw up a lot of answers.

Math insists on having a right answer. It’s right or its wrong. It’s not a teachers perception of your thoughts and ideas and its not even a measure of how much they hate you. For, even if your math teacher hates you, if your answer matches what’s in the teachers edition, you got the mark and the grade.

It seems to be that, even though nobody is perfect, we are scared of situations where there is no doubt we are wrong. We seem to forget that everyone is wrong at one point or another, and we all have strengths and weaknesses.
My advice to you is don’t be fearful. Expect to make mistakes. Expect to forget formulas. No one is perfect and no one gets every math problem right.

Statistics can actually be interesting if you really to listen to them. TV commercials and other marketing materials use lots of bad statistics and they are a source of great amusement, at least for me. And, you will find that people who are okay around numbers are in high demand in the job market. That’s good enough for me!

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