Math Tools: Percentages and Statistics

By Erin Valentine

Communication majors and mathematics never seem to quite get along. Dr. Kathleen Wickham condenses the essential math tools for journalists in her guide, “Math Tools for Journalists.”

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Chapter One

Wickham talks about the language of numbers. They are precise, and committed to be accurate, just like journalists should be. Journalists can use numbers to look for numbers and figures that seem out of place.

Roman numerals need to be understood and able to be translated. Do the math for the reader and interpret as much information as possible.

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Chapter Two

Percentages are essential for helping the audience understand and analyze the information as best as possible.

Journalists must learn the correct way to calculate percentage increase and decrease, percentage of a whole, percentage points, simple and annual interest, compounding interest and interest on savings.

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Chapter Three

Statistics are an essential aide to journalists. They also are everywhere. They are in crime rate, cost of living, test scores, etc.

Journalists should be able to evaluate and analyze surveys and studies, and gather the information they need.

Mathematical uses include the mean, median and mode. Journalists should also understand standard deviation and probability.

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Chapter Four

Federal statistics are crucial to journalists working on or finding stories. The federal government always has tons of information being released. Journalists need to be able to understand what is behind the numbers and what they truly mean. For example, government information can include the unemployment rate, GDP and the Consumer Price Index.

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