What Are the Chances?

What are the chances?

Reliving College Humiliation:

I never thought my utter failure to understand statistics or probability in college would ever become a parenting issue. I haven’t thought about the red, hot “D” I received in a college statistics course more than once or twice in the two decades since I matriculated.

I always did well in math – geometry, trig, algebra – bring it on. Statistics ruined me.  Sophomore year, first semester, PTSD (post traumatic statistics disorder). I didn’t even consider getting a tutor at the time, but I am now.

Third Grade Stats:

Until tonight, I’ve been able to answer our daughter Ava’s math questions with ease, something I’ve felt a perverse pride in considering she’s only in third grade (look at me, I’m a whiz at multiplication … you should see my long-division skills, baby!). Here’s the question from my daughter’s practice exam that stumped me:

What is the likelihood of drawing a seven in a regular deck of cards?

Here’s how my brain works:  26 cards in a deck, 4 seven cards, probability of drawing a seven card? Who cares? Or 4/26. BUT, that’s not the right answer. WTF?!

Brain Bleed:

I hate not understanding something. And now my brain (or is that my pride?) hurts.

I will conquer statistics. Or not. What I want tonight is permission to never need to understand probability – I don’t gamble, don’t care about over/under betting or sports spreads and apparently will never be a third grade math teacher. Yet I do want to understand how to think through and solve questions like this.

My daughter didn’t know the answer (and soon lost interest in finding one) and my husband who understands this stuff was out-of-town. So I turned to the internet. I was determined to figure it out – on my own, damn it (you know, for Ava’s sake, of course). And I did, finally, but in doing so completely ignored both my daughters and perhaps taught them one or two choice swear words! (What’s the probability of those words coming back to bite me?)

Tutor Wanted:

Can you find my mistake? Does my stubborn insistence on finding the answer count as teaching my daughters perseverance? And most importantly, would I have aced statistics in college if Al Gore had invented the internet a few years sooner?

I suggested to Ava that she ask her teacher to review the basics of statistics and probability again tomorrow. Ms. Phenner, will you teach me too?

20 thoughts on “What Are the Chances?

    • Tutors all around! And, yes, in hindsight, a D looked good on me – if only I’d known to play it up with Manolo heels and a boa instead of hiding in panic and shame!!

  1. I thought there were 52 cards in a deck? So the odds would be 4/52 or 1/13? Did you just get the number of cards in a deck wrong? If so, that’s not really a mistake, that’s just a brain-fart. Two very different things. 😉

  2. At my son’s school they have a computer Math program that they use as part of their Math curriculum. They are scheduled to do this on Wednesdays, my volunteer day in the classroom. I hated Statistics, but managed to pass it and my Psych licensing exam, but when it comes to “New” Math my brain just says “No!”. The kids ask me questions and most of them I can answer, but I swear they calculate area and perimeters dfferently than when I was a kid. Perhaps the answer to Ava’s Math question is, “I don’t know. Want to play a game of Go Fish?”. Have a great day ! 🙂

  3. Yes, I was going to say there are 52 cards in a deck. I hate math. I’m a copy editor and the job I had before I had kids was to edit for an educational publisher. So I had to figure stuff like this out. It was a nightmare! I had to edit worksheets, do the math, make sure everything worked, and if it didn’t, I had to know why! The good news is that now I am able to help my son with third-grade math. The bad news is that sixth-grade math is a killer.

    • I think your old job sounds great – other than the math part (I probably would have had to hire a math whiz intern to get me through!). Now that I know your formidable math skill set, I’ll be calling you for math advice right up until 6th grade.

      • When I started the job, the people training me had to refresh my skills. “How do you multiply fractions again?” The things you never thought you’d use, especially as a journalism major.

  4. Ugh, math. I was traumatized all the way through school because I never really got it. I keep hoping my kids are whizzes at math so they never ask me a question. Right now I look like Einstein to them because I can add, subtract, multiply and divide. Get me to fractions and I am screwed 🙂

    • Why o why don’t i have a math whiz kid? Or a math whiz husband or neighbor? I’m officially off the pedestal with Ava; tell me there is still hope for me with Rhys, our four year old!

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