**
Probability and Statistics - Uh? **
Most people
have an aversion to math. The root of the problem is
that they were taught things like algebra and calculus
in school, and then they never used them again. For the
most part, basic arithmetic seems to be the only branch
of math the average individual ever uses. After all,
when was the last time you even had to figure the square
root of something? You might also think the odds are
pretty low that you'll ever need to use probability and
statistics. You'd be wrong about this, though. These
branches of math pop up routinely in normal activities.
While not understanding them can put you at a severe
disadvantage, it's also important to use them
consistently wherever they apply.
Just to refresh your memory, probability is essentially
all about the likelihood or odds of something happening.
Statistics has to do mainly with averages. Put another
way, statistics involves looking a large numbers of
things and averaging them out. Probability deals with
how those averages apply to you. The most basic version
of probability that you're probably aware of is the coin
flip. A coin has only two sides. When it's flipped, it
can only land on one or the other side. This gives you a
fifty-fifty probability of one particular side facing
up.
With more possibilities, the chances of a particular one
happening become smaller. It's impossible to avoid
dealing with probability in day-to-day living. When
you're choosing between two brands of an item, you'll
pick the one that has a smaller percentage of
malfunctions. You might be willing to spend the money
needed to attend college because it increases the
likelihood of getting a high-paying job.
Statistics involves comparing a lot of individual items
in order to come up with a typical example. A simple
example would be figuring the average age in a group of
people. If their ages were ten, fourteen, thirty, and
fifty, the average age would be twenty-six. This is
obtained by adding the numbers together and dividing by
four, the number of individual ages. Statistical
averages are used when you decide where to live based on
average temperatures or what career to pursue based on
average income. It should be kept in mind that the more
objects that are used in computing an average, the more
accurate it will be. It also needs to be noted that a
distorted image can sometimes be created from an
average.
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Statisticians use another concept called a median to
correct for this. You may want a particular career
because its average salary is $47,500. The problem is
that for every person making $100,000, there are four
people making $30,000. With a median, the incomes would
be arranged from lowest to highest and the two middle
examples would be averaged. This would provide a median
of $30,000. What this demonstrates is that without this
knowledge, it's very easy to be fooled by misleading
numbers. d. Copyright
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