Friday, 27 August 2021

Statistics > Algebra

Morgan Housel, of whom I have written previously, tweeted:

Wonder if people would be better prepared for the real world if high schools cut back on algebra and doubled down on statistics.

Algebra was perhaps a bad choice of subject to be cut back on since there are other subjects far less useful in the real world, but the point that learning statistics is important remains valid.

As is mentioned in my bio, Pure Mathematics with Statistics was an A-level subject I took at school, a last minute choice necessitated by the blocking of my preferred History option by the teacher who told my parents that I was disruptive and didn't want me in his class. Full details were posted in this blog back in 2009 but the incident's aftermath ultimately proved to be hugely influential in my life.

To Morgan Housel's point, understanding statistics, at least to a basic level, is a subject that should be mandatory in school. 

I learned calculus and passed my A-Level but as Charlie Munger said:

“I never touched calculus, not once, after I was 19 years-old, I’ve lost it. The symbols would mystify me." 

In my case, I was 18 when I had my last dealings with the topic, and similarly all knowledge has long gone while statistics, on the other hand, has proven to be extremely helpful in life, not just in sports investing, but in other areas also. 

In his latest blog post Rules, Truths, Beliefs (well worth a read) he expands a little on the idea writing:

Statistics and probability are the most relevant but perhaps least-taught maths in schools. They have so many real-world consequences about how people think about everyday risk. And yet.

Personal Finance is another real-life skill that should be prioritised in schools, but many institutions make a lot of money out of people's ignorance in this area. I think if people understood compound interest, and how it can work for you (investing) or against you (borrowing), it would change some people's behaviour, though not all. "You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think" is the expression that comes to mind. 

With less than a week to go until September, I'll wait until then before updating how the baseball systems are working for August, but if you are playing hot favourites you'll know you're doing pretty nicely which ever hand the starter throws with.

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