More or Less was an idea born of the sense that numbers were the principal language of public argument. And yet there were few places where it was thought necessary to step back and think - in the way we often step back to think about language - about the way we use figures: what they really measure, what kind of truth, if any, they capture. Tim Harford explains - and sometimes debunks - the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life.
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More or Less
Tim Harford presents BBC Radio 4's surprising and refreshing guide to statistics in the news.
12th February 2021 at 4:30PM
Prominent Labour politicians have claimed teachers are more likely to catch Covid-19, is that true? England’s Test and Trace programme has been widely criticised, has it raised its game in recent months?
A ferocious row has broken out between scientists about how effective fast turnaround Lateral Flow tests are, and how they should be used. We examine the data. Plus, we examine a claim from Extinction Rebellion that British butterflies have declined by 50% since 1976.
Are exports to the EU from the UK down 68% since Brexit? This apocalyptic statistic is being widely reported, but does it really tell us what’s happening at Dover and Folkstone? Ministers are tweeting reassuring numbers about flammable cladding on high rise buildings. We’re not so sure. Is it really true that one in five people are disabled? Plus, if you assembled all the coronavirus particles in the world into a pile - how big would it be?
The UK was the first European country to surpass 100,000 deaths from Covid 19. The UK has one of the worst death rates. But can we trust the numbers? Many of our listeners have asked us to investigate. Long Covid is widely acknowledged as being a growing problem, but what are the numbers involved? Just how many people have long-term symptoms after their initial infection? There have been reports that we are drinking more in Lock Down. We examine the evidence. Dr Natalie MacDermott was one of the first guests invited on to More or Less to talk about the new coronavirus early last year. We revisit what she said then and what we know now. Plus, she tells of her own struggles with Long Covid.
Teachers, Test & Trace and Butterflies
Can the UK be unlocked with a faulty key? A case for ending lockdown rests on bad statistics.Read now ❯COVID-19: Making decisions based on flawed statistics
Brexit exports, cladding and are 1 in 5 disabled?
Maddie Blackburn under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license
Five things to know about being disabled and LGBTQ
Disabled people are often wrongly assumed not to have sexuality or interest in sex! Here, Jamie Hale reels off 5 things you need to know about being disabled and LGBTQ...Read now ❯Five things to know about being disabled and LGBTQ
A total of 72 lives were lost in the Grenfell disaster and anger has grown amongst local residents towards their council.Read now ❯Grenfell Tower Timeline: Was the disaster inevitable?
Comparing death counts, Lock Down drinking and Long Covid
Could the current COVID-19 pandemic derail the Sustainable Development Goal 3 'health for all' targets after five years of progress? Dr Aravinda Meera Guntupalli explores...Read now ❯Five ways in which COVID-19 has impacted on progress in global health
Alcohol: why do we drink it? Dr Claire Rostron, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Life Health and Chemical Sciences at The Open University, investigates.Read now ❯The science behind why we drink alcohol
A discussion and Q&A session on COVID-19 with experts from the OU STEM faculty.Read now ❯Ask the experts: Coronavirus fake news & medical terminology
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BSc (Honours) Mathematics
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This key introductory OU level 1 module provides a gentle start to the study of mathematics. It will help you to integrate mathematical ideas into your everyday thinking and build your confidence in using and learning mathematics. You'll cover statistical, graphical, algebraic, trigonometric and numerical concepts and techniques, and be introduced to mathematical modelling. Formal calculus is not included and you are not expected to have any previous knowledge of algebra. The skills introduced are required for successful study in many subject areas, such as in computing, economics, science, technology, social science, humanities, business and education. And they're needed if you plan to study further mathematics modules, such as (MST124).Learn more ❯Discovering mathematics
This key introductory module provides a broad and enjoyable foundation for university-level mathematics, but you do require some prior knowledge. It teaches you the essential ideas and techniques that underpin university-level study in mathematics and mathematical subjects such as physics, engineering and economics. You'll study a range of fundamental topics ? including calculus, vectors, matrices and complex numbers ? and use mathematical software to solve problems. You'll also develop your skills in communicating results and defining problems. This is not a module for beginners. Our MathsChoices website (mathschoices.open.ac.uk) contains quizzes, sample material and advice to help you decide if this is the right module for you.Learn more ❯Essential mathematics 1
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Today, more than ever, statistics is part of our lives. From this key introductory module you will learn how to use basic statistical tools and quantitative methods that are useful in business, government, industry, medicine, the economy, and most academic subjects. Topics covered include: summarising data; examining relationships; randomness and sampling distributions; probability; testing hypotheses; and estimation. Using data from a range of applications, you'll learn practical statistical techniques and fundamental principles, as well as using software and a calculator to analyse data. The skills introduced will be ideal if you plan to study more mathematics modules or if you encounter data in another subject or your daily life.Learn more ❯Introducing statistics
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Dr Katie Chicot, Senior Lecturer, Staff Tutor in Mathematics & Statistics
Katie Chicot researches infinite combinatorial structures.
Katie completed her PhD in mathematics at the University of Leeds. Desiring to bring the beauty and clarity of mathematics to a broader audience Katie became the Clothworkers’ Fellow in Mathematics at the Royal Institution. Soon after she became an Associate Lecturer with the Open University and then a Staff Tutor.
Katie is involved in many projects which bring maths to the public and schools. She is the CEO of MathsWorldUK, she has been a Holgate lecturer with the London Mathematical Society and has served on the council of the UK Mathematics Trust.
Katie has an interest in gender in STEM and has been made resources that help women to return to STEM employment such as the short course Return to STEM.
Tackling mathematical problems and encouraging others to engage with mathematical investigations are the cornerstones of Katie’s work.
Dr Kaustubh Adhikari, Lecturer in Statistics, Faculty: Mathematics & Statistics
Kaustubh obtained his PhD in Biostatistics from the Harvard University, working on mathematical modelling of epidemiology. He then worked as a postdoctoral researcher in statistical genetics at the University College London, before joining the Open University as a Lecturer in Statistics.
Kaustubh’s research has unravelled the genetic and evolutionary basis of many aspects of our appearance, for example hair greying, face shape, or skin colour. A key component of his research is to increase the diversity of research participants around the world, in particular with under-represented ethnicities.
Kaustubh is a member of the Royal Statistical Society and the Genetics Society. He has a keen interest in science communication and public engagement. Parts of his forensics research was featured in the BBC documentary DNA+.
He is also involved in the masterclass programme organized by the Royal Institution for students with particular interest in mathematics and statistics. At the OU Kaustubh teaches a broad range of courses, in applied, computational, and mathematical statistics.