Statistics

I taught statistics the summer that Kim and I got married.

People often confuse math with arithmetic. They think of what I do as just numbers. How boring. Math is not boring. It is pretty and creative. It helps you understand the world around you and invent new ones with different rules.

We chose to get married in August because we both were working and we were both in school. We figured we’d get married between the summer term and the fall semester.

That summer was pretty busy. Kim worked during the day and was putting in student hours in speech therapy in the afternoon and some evenings. That meant that I had to go over to her parents’ house every day to train our puppy.

I loved teaching statistics in the summer term.

Statistics is so much more than numbers. It can really come alive.

A lot of classes are so intense in the shortened time of the summer term but stats seems to come together when students see how everything fits together.

That fall, Kim took Statistics at Case as part of her speech program. I taught a semester at Oberlin.

One night Kim was frowning over her homework.

“What?” I asked.

“I can’t show you,” she said.

“Why?”

“My teacher explicitly asked me not to show what we’re learning to you.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, she said ‘please don’t show this to your husband.”

“Is she afraid I’ll help you?”

“No, she’s embarrassed that the statistics we’re learning isn’t rigorous enough.”

Anyway, Maggie and I were driving together on the highway this weekend. It was our first time driving past the site where Kim was hit by the semi.

A car wandered into our lane.

It was on my right. I was clearly where the driver could see me. The car drifted closer and closer until it was over the line into our lane.

I honked the horn.

The driver glared at me and corrected back into his lane. Before long he started to drift the other way.

On the way home there was one of those signs that tells you how much time it will take to get to various landmarks. It also had some information about accidents and slowdowns ahead.

You’ve seen those signs.

“Click-it or ticket.”

“Don’t drive drunk.”

“The number of deaths this year on Ohio roads is…”

Oh. Statistics.

Numbers mean something different when you have a story for one of those deaths.

They don’t always help you understand the world around you though.

I’ve seen that sign for years. I don’t think I’ll look at it the same again.

Published in: on October 2, 2016 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

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