I need to give a presentation to a group of students on Tuesday about why one needs to be careful when examining statistics or mathematical results in the media or online.
In his book How Not To Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg provides a few examples that I planned on using as case studies to present to the students
- Wisconsin governor in 2011 claims, since there was a net 18,000 jobs added in 2011 and 9,000 were in Wisconsin, that implies that Wisconsin is doing something right. Failed to mention that net jobs added included states that lost jobs, which reduces the net rate.
- Mathematicians find proof that the Torah sends messages to the future by looking at sequences of characters that correspond to rabbi names and said rabbi birth/death dates. However, these results only held in the event of very specific names and dates; using any other accepted names or dates for each rabbi resulted in failed tests.
If anyone knew of any other good real world examples of misleading statistics or mathematics. I know of a many examples due to variability in sample size, but the more intricate and (potentially) nefarious, the better.