Statistics: It's in the Numbers! Mathematics Offers a Language with Which to Express Relationships in Science and Technology and Provides Useful Analytical Tools for Scientists and Engineers

Article excerpt

Introduction

Very few people would argue that mathematics and statistics are not important tools in business and industry. Much the same in middle and high school technology education programs, teachers and students use math skills in solving technical problems, testing, measurement, and calculating resistance, current, and voltage in electrical and electronic circuits. Many of the machines, testing equipment, and tools that are commonly found in technology labs require math skills.

When we consider learning activities in manufacturing and construction, we can readily see the role that math skills play in estimating material quantities and costs. Further, in construction, we can see examples such as calculating area for framing, sheathing, roofing, and floor materials, calculating cubic measure for soil and fill materials as well as concrete and block estimates. In manufacturing, we can see applications in material lists, material costs, and inventory and quality control.

Mathematics offers a language with which to express relationships in science and technology and provides useful analytical tools for scientists and engineers. As we look at the larger picture, mathematics is used by engineers, scientists, and technicians to describe process, products, theories, and models. But wait! People in wholesale and retail distribution, service companies, medical professions, and many other areas also use many of these same skills and knowledge in mathematics, statistics, and probability to market products, inventory, provide services, conduct research, and provide health care. Two notable organizations associated with statistics are The Nielsen Company and the United States Census Bureau.

By the numbers: We see numbers in the daily weather forecast, reflecting the average temperature and rainfall over periods of time; car manufacturers promote the fuel mileage of their vehicles as shown in Figure 1; we see beverages by the liter, frequency of accidents at intersections, test grade averages, cell phones per capita, and many other number-referenced data. Here, we are looking at statistics and how numbers can show the analysis of data, quantitative relationships, and interpretation of data to provide useful information.

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A day does not pass that people are not bombarded with statistical information in news reports (presidential and congressional poll numbers), advertisements (four out of five dentists prefer sugarless gum, and choosy morns choose Brand X peanut butter), and a consumer survey by The Nielsen Company found that two in five (42%) global online consumers believe governments should restrict companies' emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Two in five online consumers also said governments should invest in research to find environmentally friendly and energy-saving solutions (Nielsen).

As consumers, we need to be aware that statistical methods and data must be used correctly and accurately to present information in a meaningful and useful way. Frequently, statistical information may be misrepresented or incompletely presented inadvertently or on purpose. The result is an inaccurate use of the data and perhaps false and misleading conclusions. Having a basic understanding of statistics can be helpful in interpreting much of the statistical data that we encounter almost on a daily basis.

Advertisers rely heavily on statistical data to reach consumers with their advertising messages. Advertisements may appear in a mix of print media, broadcast radio and television, cable, outdoor advertising, the Internet, and other media. The top ten advertisers, according to The Nielsen Company, are shown in Table 1 (page 8).

One of the newest advances in advertising is the digital display billboard. Lamar Advertising has introduced full-sized Light Emitting Diode (LED) billboards like the one shown in Figure 2 that you may see along an Interstate or major highway. …