Mannkal Economic Education Foundation

Mannkal Student Internship Blog

Wei Tien Sng – Week 6

Wei Tien Sng

15 February 2016

“I’m like a shooting star, I’ve come so far, I can’t go back to where I used to be.” – Princess Jasmine

This week brought my biggest challenge so far: writing a travel piece for CapX’s weekend section on Perth and WA. I tried my utmost to do our beautiful state justice. Something unexpected that I have learnt while away is just how underrated and truly magnificent WA is. Perth has a reputation for being dull and boring, but in fact it doesn’t take much to uncover all we really have to offer, and just how amazing the things we do have to offer are. Feel free to have a read!

This week I attended a talk by the Undercover Economist, Tim Harford, on the topic of Good Statistics, Bad Causes. It was very insightful. Good causes, such as charities, sometimes rely on, or make up, bad statistics and numbers for a number of purposes, both noble or ignoble. Often, they are trying to reach their ultimate goal of raising funds or awareness, but Tim points out that they frequently achieve this by manipulating numbers and statistics so that people ‘feel’ things and then give, rather than relying on the true facts to help promotes their cause. Other times, it is naivety and a lack of proper and through research that leads to dodgy numbers. A key point emphasised during the talk was that a statistic should tell you something about the world or you will have learnt nothing. He also gave some tips on how to filter out the rubbish and probe a statistic to find out if it was any good.

After the talk there was a short panel discussion on charities and statistics, continuing with the theme for the night. An interesting thing that was pointed out during that panel was the alarming lack of adult competence in numeracy, and the startlingly different way we, as a society, view numeracy and literacy. People often ask questions along the line of “what is 19×35?” but you hardly ever get asked questions like “how do you spell “Mississippi”? when asked about literacy. We are taught increasingly difficult maths to apply to simple situations, but in reality, the maths we need is rather basic, but is applied in more complex situations, such as calculating the yields for bonds or stocks, rather than needing to calculate the volume of a sphere.

I had a lovely relaxing weekend this week. It was just what I needed after 6 solid weeks of ‘go go go’! I’m looking forward to my penultimate week well-rested and refreshed.

London Eye at night

Panel discussion at Good Causes, Bad Statistics

Tim Harford

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