A Closer Look

COVID and Numeracy – “Fractions are my worst nightmare!”

People all across the U.S. claim that they are “not math people.” They even readily admit to their hatred for some math fundamentals, such as fractions. For instance, a participant in one of our research studies on how well adults understand fractions proclaimed: “Fractions are my worst nightmare!”

Could people’s fear and avoidance of math, and their common mathematical mistakes in school, also lead to misunderstandings in the real world about just how dangerous COVID-19 is to their own health and to society in general?

We are psychology scholars, and two of us – Clarissa Thompson and Pooja Sidney – are experts in the field of mathematical cognition. It is our job to investigate how people of all ages learn about math. We also identify good and bad strategies that people often use when they try to solve hard math problems. Based on these observations, we have come up with several ways to help everyone gain more insight into how math works.

One very common misconception we’re concerned about is known as “whole number bias.” Based on headlines and news accounts about the novel coronavirus, we wonder if this bias might lead people to underestimate their own and others’ risks associated with COVID-19.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Could poor math skills be causing us to underestimate the threat of COVID-19? | World Economic Forum

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