Monday, December 13, 2010

The Importance of Being Numerate

"I'm never going to use this stuff," we would tell our mathematics teachers. And we were right, because if you don't learn math well, you never use it.

But those who learned it now use it to map the human genome or to model derivatives or to invent new formulas or to manipulate survey results. They make big money.

We live in a world based on numbers. The numerate win.

Let's say you avoided mastering mathematics and work in a field of soft skills, such as marketing. Even that world belongs to people who can use numbers to prove why their ideas are better.

If you must choose between two marketers, which will you choose to hire? One who can conclusively prove, numerically, that "my plan will increase market share by 12 percent." The other one that says "my plan feels right in my gut, so choose me."

You are 90 percent more likely to choose the one with the numbers.

Here is a story problem. Let's say rap singer 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) earns an annual salary of 150 million dollars. For every singer at that level, 150,000 youths struggle to break into that level. They all did gigs and called themselves rap artists.

Question: what is the average (mean) salary for all those artists?

Answer: 1,000 dollars. That is not enough money to live on, especially after deducting costs of sound equipment and necessary excessive bling. So stay in school and study calculus.

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