Statistics in the news media
It is important that the web sources chosen are robust and reliable.
News reports appear on topics as wide-ranging as:
- town planning
- environmental control
- attendance at cultural events.
To think critically in social contexts, it is necessary to develop:
- understanding of statistical concepts and language involved in media reports (e.g. average, median, percentage, sample, survey)
- further understanding of how the statistical concepts and language are applied in the reports (e.g. opinion polls, sports results)
- a questioning attitude in order to examine the claims made with regard to the application and interpretation of the statistics.
Questions that can be asked to develop this critical thinking include:
- What statistical terms are used and what do they mean?
- What do these terms mean in the specific context of the reports?
- Are the terms used correctly and reported without bias?
- Have they been applied and interpreted appropriately for the context?
- Is the claim made in the report believable? If not, why not?
The Numeracy in the News website provides newspaper articles with student questions and teacher discussion.
It is a valuable educational resource that aims to inspire teachers to read local newspapers to find articles that can stimulate critical statistical thinking.
Two conflicting newspaper articles challenge students’ beliefs in the truth of media reports, which is sometimes unfounded.