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?