Risky Business

The benefits of teaching the statistics of risk analysis.

Probability lessons may teach children how to weigh life’s odds and be winners

“You can tick off story after story that’s probably interesting to the people it happened to, but not statistically unusual at all. There was a recent story about a family in Gloucestershire with three children all born on January 29. We were contacted by a journalist and asked what are the chances of this happening.

“The chances are about one in 135,000, or seven in a million. But there are a million families with three children in the UK. So it’s almost certain that this family is not unique and when the story went online, someone wrote in and said, ‘I was born on the same day as my two brothers’.”


The unfounded scare over the MMR vaccine, and outlandish claims of success for alternative medicines, were prime examples.“One must think all the time of what is not being reported – the dog that didn’t bark. When we see a hole-in-one video on YouTube we are sensible enough to know that this has been selected out of millions of shots that missed. We need to think the same way every time we hear of someone claiming that some new treatment has cured them.”