Thursday, 6 March 2014

Numeracy in the media

Maths, and numeracy more generally, is not everyone’s strongest suit, to say the least.  It’s an area of education which is – quite rightly – causing a great deal of concern in Wales at present; and one which journalists and reporters often cover.  Sometimes though, they don’t display much of an understanding of the issue themselves, leading to alarmist statements based on numbers, the statistical significance (or lack of) of which is rarely explained.
Take the headline earlier this week about a huge increase in immigration (exclusively referring to immigration from outside the UK of course) into Wales.  Merthyr Tydfil, we were told, had the second largest increase in immigrant numbers of any local authority in the UK.  Between 2001 and 2011 the increase was an enormous 227% conjuring up an image of hordes of foreigners flooding into the town and its surroundings. 
Gareth Hughes has already pointed out some of the failings in this use of the figures.  In 2001 there were 807 foreign-born residents in Merthyr Tydfil, by 2011 that that had increased to 2641.  That amounts to only 9% of the total population, and as Gareth points out, gives a completely different picture of what’s happening.
The question is whether this is deliberate scaremongering by those writing the headlines or whether it displays the very problem which they often refer to when dealing with mathematical and numeracy issues in education.  I’m afraid that I tend to the latter interpretation.  Still, at least it justifies their concern about the nation’s grasp of numbers.


G Horton-Jones said...

What on earth would they have made of the influx into the valleys at the start of the coal mining era

The nice thing about maths is you are either right or wrong there are very few grey areas

More importantly is that we in Wales do not currently have control over own immigration and to expand on this what does the future hold for them and ourselves.
The disclosures confirming what Arthur Scargill said at the time about the wholesale destruction of the miners through colliery closures surely should generate a claim on Westminster for say 500 billion pounds to regenerate those communities so affected both in and outside Wales.
I am reminded by the way America tried to exterminate its native people by trying to exterminate the buffalo and they still bear the tragic consequences of that

Anonymous said...

It's just a problem with education in Wales. Maths and English are not strong subjects. But photography and painting are.

We can thank Plaid and Labour for our love for the arts.