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.
Skip to content
My OpenLearn Profile
- Personalise your OpenLearn profile
- Save your favourite content
- Get recognition for your learning
More or Less
Tim Harford presents BBC Radio 4's surprising and refreshing guide to statistics in the news.
Available on BBC iPlayerBBC Radio 4 on Wednesday
22nd April 2020 at 9:00AM
- COVID-19 - When are we going to be past the worst? We try and compare how successful different countries have been at containing the virus.
- Mathematical comedian Matt Parker helps us out with a perplexing sum about social distancing.
- Headlines tell us how many NHS staff and transport workers are dying from the virus, but how does this compare with the general population?
- Is it just us, or have the birds started singing really loudly?
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
Can the UK be unlocked with a faulty key? A case for ending lockdown rests on bad statistics.Read nowCOVID-19: Making decisions based on flawed statistics
Level: 2 Intermediate
With so many contradictory statistics in the news, how do you know which COVID-19 stats are accurate? Who can you trust?Listen nowTrusting Statistics in Today’s News
Level: 1 Introductory
The incidence of obesity is on the increase in affluent societies, and the phenomenon commands increasing attention from health professionals, legislators and the media. This free course, Obesity: Balanced diets and treatment, looks at the science behind obesity, examining the dietary, physiological and genetic aspects of the topic.Learn more ❯Obesity: Balanced diets and treatment
Obesity is an increasingly common problem because, for many people, modern living involves eating excessive amounts of low cost, high-calorie food and spending a lot of time sitting down at desks, on sofas or in cars.Read now ❯The challenge of obesity
Both vitamins and minerals are essential in the diet in small quantities. Learn about the two main vitamin groups and the major mineral elements. This free course, Nutrition: vitamins and minerals, looks at the two main groups of vitamins: the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K; and the water-soluble vitamins, the B group and vitamin C. It also examines the major mineral elements, and the importance of fluid balance in the body.Learn more ❯Nutrition: vitamins and minerals
Modern life can leave many of us feeling stressed out. Here Dr Mathijs Lucassen offers five tips so that you can relax.Read now ❯Five tips for relaxing during difficult times
New research shows that changing the way we farm and manage soils so they store carbon rather than lose it would help avoid dangerous climate change.Read now ❯Soil could save Earth from overheating
Soil is not just dirt but a living system with many important functions. Degraded soils impact on food production, erosion, and more, affecting the lives of people around the world. Restoration efforts in China, Zambia and other countries seek to reverse this trend.Read now ❯How can you turn desert into farmland?
The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license
Perplex: Classic puzzles, past and present
Test your puzzle-solving ability with incredibly immersive and interactive puzzles from The Open University and UKMTTake part now ❯Perplex: Classic puzzles, past and present
Copyright free: geralt
BSc (Honours) Mathematics
This degree will take your understanding of the concepts, theories and applications of mathematics to graduate level, and give you the opportunity to study some statistics, theoretical physics or mathematics education. You'll cover a wide range of topics and develop an understanding of mathematical problems and approaches. You'll get plenty of practice with essential methods and tools, and increase your familiarity with mathematical software. You'll gain an appreciation of the role and construction of rigorous proof, and build experience of communicating mathematical arguments and conclusions.Learn more ❯BSc (Honours) Mathematics
This degree will provide you with extensive knowledge of probability and statistics, combined with either pure mathematics or applied mathematics. It will equip you with problem-solving and decision-making tools; give you experience using relevant software packages; and provide practice in conducting and communicating statistical investigations. You'll develop your understanding of time series analysis, multivariate data analysis, regression analysis, and hypothesis testing; and explore classical and Bayesian approaches to statistics.Learn more ❯BSc (Honours) Mathematics and Statistics
In this degree, you'll develop knowledge and understanding of key concepts in theoretical physics and the underpinning mathematical ideas and methods. It will teach you how to use essential techniques and relevant software, and acquire skills in communicating arguments and conclusions clearly and concisely. You'll explore the concepts of modern physics, including Newtonian mechanics, special relativity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. And have the opportunity to get plenty of practice with the tools of applied mathematics, including mathematical methods, mathematical modelling and numerical analysis.Learn more ❯BSc (Honours) Mathematics and Physics
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 will be needed if you plan to study more mathematics modules, such as (MST124), and are also required in other areas, such as computing, economics, science, technology, social science, humanities, business and education.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
Copyright free: 12019
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
You might not realise it, but maths is an essential component of healthcare. In fact, sloppy calculations can have fatal consequences. This free course, Using numbers and handling data, is designed for those contemplating a future in the health services industry.Learn more ❯Using numbers and handling data
Modern society is often referred to as 'the information society' - but how can we make sense of all the information we are bombarded with? In this free course, Visualisation: Visual representations of data and information, you will learn how to interpret, and in some cases create, visual representations of data and information that help us to see things in a different way.Learn more ❯Visualisation: Visual representations of data and information
This free course, Exploring data: graphs and numerical summaries, will introduce you to a number of ways of representing data graphically and of summarising data numerically. You will learn the uses for pie charts, bar charts, histograms and scatterplots. You will also be introduced to various ways of summarising data and methods for assessing location and dispersion.Learn more ❯Exploring data: Graphs and numerical summaries
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.