Finding Love with a Modified Drake’s Equation

Some time ago, I wrote an article on the optimal way to select a mate, assuming you know how many eligible partners exist, and that once you’ve dated someone, you can’t go back and date them again (sorry, Drew Barrymore and that dude from the Apple commercials). This is less romantically known as the secretary problem. Let me briefly recall the problem and its solution: suppose you have n candidates, from which you want to pick the best one. This applies to a variety of situations, from hiring a secretary to finding a girlfriend to apartment hunting. In either case, the outcome is the same: you should look at roughly the first n/e of them (yes, that e), and then select the first one after those n/e which is better than all that you have seen so far. While this strategy won’t guarantee you get the best choice, it . . . → Read More: Finding Love with a Modified Drake’s Equation

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Gender Gap Genesis

Late last year, a study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which tried to pin down origins for the gender gap in mathematics education. As I’ve discussed before, the gender gap in math education is shrinking, and has been shown to be less about biology and more about culture – in cultures where gender equality is weaker, the gender gap is stronger. Nevertheless, even in American culture, the gender gap still persists, and this study by Sian Beilock and others has tried to figure out how, if the gender gap is culturally based, it comes about in young students. The original study can be found here, while a discussion of the study that was featured in the news can be found here.

Professor Beilock and her colleagues tried to correlate young students’ math anxiety with the math anxiety of their teachers. In particular, they looked . . . → Read More: Gender Gap Genesis

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Lying with Statistics in Football

In the aftermath of the Super Bowl, some of you fans may be dreading the next six months. To kick off this football drought, I’d like to highlight this article, which was featured on Yahoo yesterday. The article says that Saints quarterback Drew Brees should hope to lose the coin toss at the start of the game, because in the past 43 Super Bowls, the team that won the coin toss had only won 20 times.

An unlucky coin? Unlikely.

Um…what? Who cares? While 20/43 is slightly less than the expected 50%, this difference is not even close to being statistically significant. Actually, the fact that this ratio is only 1 1/2 games shy of the mean is pretty good. Matt Springer has posted an article that discusses why we shouldn’t really care about this difference.

Of course, the sample size is naturally restricted by the small number of . . . → Read More: Lying with Statistics in Football

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